Report looks at needs of women, girls in state

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More opportunities for leadership, better pipelines to a range of careers, and improved health care and response to sexual assault are needs identified in the first annual report of the Illinois Council on Women and Girls.

“This inaugural report is wide-reaching because the issues women face are complex and diverse,” Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton said as the report was presented at a news conference at Innovate Springfield. “Yet the goals presented here are attainable, and the council is already working on implementation alongside legislators, advocacy groups and other stakeholders in our state.”

The 32-member council was established by law in 2018, with appointments made in 2019. The report is available on Stratton’s website.

Dr. Vidhya Prakash, a member of the council and founder and director of the SIU Medicine Alliance for Women in Medicine and Science, said the council is already working with state officials to reduce the backlog in processing DNA evidence from rape kits.

Gov. JB Pritzker has signed an executive order creating a task force to look into issues including processing of the rape kits, Stratton said, and the council will support those efforts.

MK Pritzker, the governor’s wife, supports the council’s work and was at the news conference.

Prakash said the council will also oversee development of a report by state agencies and community partners for girls interested in pursuing careers in medicine, business, law and “steam,” which stands for science, technology, education, engineering, arts and math. And it encourages more opportunities for students to get experience within state government’s executive branch.

The group will also work for improved health care for new mothers, she said.

Stratton highlighted that women still lag in areas including earnings.

“In 2017, women in Illinois who worked full time earned 78 cents on the dollar compared with similarly employed men, and they’re not expected to see equal pay until the year 2065,” Stratton said. “And for black and Latinx women in our state, that disparity is even greater, as they earned 62.6 percent and 49.2 cents on the dollar, respectively.” She said the aim of the council’s work is to see that “all of us, not just some of us, will have access to justice, equity and opportunity.”

Grace Beyers, an 18-year-old senior at Springfield Southeast High School and the student member of the District 186 school board, opened the news conference. She said she became a feminist when, as a freshman, she dressed as a TV surgeon on a “spirit day” at school, but people misread her costume.

“I realized that everyone was assuming I was a nurse because I was a girl,” Beyers said. She said the problem she sees is not the need for women to become smarter; “It’s us having to fight harder for people to recognize how smart we already are.”

State Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, and state Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin, who pushed creation of the council, also appeared.

“As a black woman, I have experienced many of the barriers many of the women and young girls still encounter today,” Collins said. “And serving in the legislature has revealed just how far we still have to go.”

“Women in the General Assembly are leading the way,” Moeller said, “on clean energy and combating climate change, pension reform, cybersecurity, recreational cannabis legalization, criminal justice reform, health care, child welfare and balancing our state budget. And we’re still only 36% of the General Assembly. Imagine what we’re going to do when we’re in the majority.”

Contact Bernard Schoenburg: bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com, 788-1540, twitter.com/bschoenburg.

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via The State Journal-Register

March 5, 2020 at 08:11PM

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