Governor’s Forum Promotes Continued Focus on Women’s Issues in New York

This is the year of action and women’s empowerment. Rallies and conferences have taken place across the globe, seeking to bring attention to the higher-ups in hopes of change.

One such forum was held at SUNY New Paltz on Friday, Feb. 23, addressing women’s issues in New York and discussing an action plan. The forum was part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s larger 2018 Women’s Agenda for New York.

The forum covered the fundamentals of intersectionality, education within STEM, workforce equity with economic opportunity, healthcare, childcare, safety, and leadership. The
speakers at the forum referred to these as the nine areas of impact.

Introducing the forum was President Donald Christian of SUNY New Paltz. The panel consisted of seven women speakers, comprising of leaders from the private sector as well as government officials. Missing from the forum was Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who was unable to make it to the event.

Cuomo, who has a history of striving for gender equality, formed the Council on Women and Girls, in recognition of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New York in 2017. “I was impressed by the emphasis that he placed on the continuing efforts to support women,” said Christian. “Here at the college we discuss these problems broadly.”

After Christian, the first person to speak was Maria Vullo, the superintendent of the Department of Financial Services. She began by listing Cuomo’s accomplishments regarding women’s equality, such as his 2017 executive orders dealing with pay equity by state employers and state contractors. From there, she began her discussion on the issues women continue to face in New York and the actions Cuomo plans to take to combat those issues, such as his plans to invest in pre-k, and to launch mentorship programs for younger students.

Following Vullo’s introduction of the goals of the forum and the council, the other members of the board began to speak on how to tackle inequality in New York. A large portion of the discussion was devoted namely to women’s health issues and issues in the workforce.

A major point of discussion as the decriminalization of abortion, which Ruth-Ellen Blodgett, the CEO of the Mid-Hudson Valley Planned Parenthood, devoted a great amount of time to. Vullo spoke on this issue as well, saying that Planned Parenthood is the best provider of women’s health care. Also discussed was gender based violence, which Shannon Wong of the NYCLU devoted her time to, child care resources, which Kathleen Halas the executive director of the Child Care Council of Westchester spoke about, and racial issues, which Wong and Blodgett both spoke of at length.

A point that was emphasized greatly was the need for participation. Halas said the idea that voting does not matter is “just not true” and Vullo said that “tangible results don’t always come right away,” but stressed that perseverance is key.

The forum ended with questions from the audience. Questions about topics such as higher education and Cuomo’s executive orders were asked. One question that drew a lot of applause from the audience was asked by a student from new Paltz who asked what the panel thought of the lack of men. The speakers all responded by saying that intersectionality and working with allies is incredibly important.

As Wong said, a major thing they were trying to teach was how to be a better ally. She said, the key is to “learn to lead, but also learn to step aside so others can lead.”

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