As Women’s History Month continues, there have been meaningful efforts and actions taken by the Senate Majority Democratic Caucus to empower and uplift women across the state of Michigan.

To address critical issues facing women in the state, Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) hosted a State of Women Town Hall on Wednesday, March 20, at the Gier Community Center. As part of the event, Sen. Anthony’s office collected and donated feminine hygiene products to the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing.

“I’ve always been passionate about closing gaps for women, and it’s been a part of every single legislative agenda that I’ve ever pushed,” said Sen. Anthony.  “So, these are things that we’ve been really paying attention to. What’s the next frontier? Pay equity.” 

Sen. Sarah Anthony and other esteemed panelists at the 2024 State of Women Town Hall.

Sen. Anthony chats alongside her esteemed panelists (from left to right) Panelists Jen Nelson, COO of Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and Dr. Renee Branch Canady, CEO of the Michigan Public Health Institute, and Brandy Johnson, President of the Michigan Community College Association.

The town hall brought together over 100 attendees, mostly women, to delve into pressing issues from healthcare access to economic empowerment and offer potential solutions. The women panelists openly discussed pivotal moments in their lives and careers – from learning how to speak up in meetings, to experiencing sexism, and navigating motherhood while in a leadership role. There were laughs, tears, and affirmations of shared experiences. Ultimately, the women expressed a deep commitment to pushing past societal, archaic expectations of women and supporting other women’s progress without competition.

Additionally, the women shared statistics pertaining to their respective fields that echoed the data reflected in the recently unveiled 2024 Women in the Michigan Workforce Report. The report demonstrates that women in Michigan earn about 78 cents on the dollar compared to men, with even greater disparities for Black and Latina women.

“The state of women in healthcare and public health has not yet attained the level that we need,” said Dr. Renee Branch Canady. “The attention is a matter not of social and political will, but of collective willingness to advance a change in this critical dialogue so that we can see a change in the outcome.”

“It is a fact that if you stop your education at a high school diploma, the chances that you will live the rest of your life in poverty are astronomical — that’s especially true for women,” said Brandy Johnson. “Women and girls are now enrolling, persisting, and completing higher education at rates far above their male counterparts. We must continue to support women in their pursuit of postsecondary education and high-wage jobs.”

“From a business perspective, we know that we have to be more intentional about the support we are providing to many businesses, and especially women-owned businesses,” said Jen Nelson. “We are focused on programs, technical assistance and providing the connections so women know they are available. We should be proud that women have outperformed what some of the projections were, but there is still a 10% gap in the labor force participation rate between women and men.” 

Sen. Anthony, a prominent advocate for women’s rights and equality,

Sen. Anthony, a prominent advocate for women’s rights and equality, is known for her dedication to championing women’s causes from expanding reproductive rights to outlawing child marriage in Michigan.

As Senate Appropriations Chair, Sen. Anthony views town halls as a way to directly hear constituents’ needs and then prioritize them within legislation and the state budget. As the Fiscal Year 2025 budget progresses in its initial stages, Sen. Anthony aims to invest in underserved communities, enhance childcare accessibility, and create even more opportunities for women to thrive.

Sen. Anthony encourages communities to continue to participate in conversations surrounding women’s issues wherever they are – whether at the kitchen table, among friends, or in the workplace. Through dialogue and subsequent action, change can be made.

As we reflect on the state of women in Michigan, it is abundantly clear that women are boldly claiming their space across diverse industry sectors. Today, the state of women in Michigan is not just promising, it’s hopeful, energized, and ever-evolving.

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