The California Commission on the Status of Women provides a voice to the state's 19 million women and girls. That is more than half of the state's population. Many feel it is a sad day for California.
Because of budget cuts, the state's Commission on the Status of Women is packing up and closing its doors after 47 years of fighting for gender equity. Maybe the recent election of actress Geena Davis to head the agency could bring it back to life one day, but for now, it runs out of money at the end of next week without its mission fulfilled.
"Women have come a long way, certainly, since 1965, but have not achieved full equality," Beth McGovern with the commission says. The commission's own report found California women still earn less than men, making 84 cents to the dollar. Only 28 percent of the legislature is women and only one Fortune 500 company in California has a woman CEO. "If no one is there to point it out, if no one is there to look at this and be aware of it and say, 'If you do that, women will be harmed,' then yes, I'm very concerned," McGovern says.
Ironically, Gov. Jerry Brown's father established the commission in 1965 and now it is Brown himself who proposes to no longer fund it, even though it costs less than half a million dollars a year to run. The governor is on a mission to consolidate and reduce government. "There are different advocacy organizations, the governor and others who are going to be making sure that the state continues to do what it needs to do to take care of the needs of women," says Ana Matosantos with the California Finance Department.
The Women's Caucus points out that state government has been especially hard on women. Welfare grants have been slashed, there are fewer slots for subsidized childcare, and domestic violence shelters lost much of their state funding. "What we've been doing is primarily cutting services that primarily serve women and children in this state. So, this is not the time to eliminate the Commission on the Status of Women because the status of women in the state of California right now is very precarious," St. Senator Noreen Evans of Santa Rosa says.
In a last ditch effort, the commission designated April 11 as a call-in day, hoping so many Californians call in to the governor's office that somehow Brown finds the money to save the agency.