State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson has been elected vice-chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus (LWC), allowing her to now lead the way for new legislation and other advocacy of women’s rights.
In her newly elected position, Jackson will work with other female legislators to promote women’s roles in statewide positions while also advocating legislation that combats gender discrimination in everyday life, government functions and workplace settings. The LWC includes 31 female assemblymembers and seeks to highlight and resolve the concerns of California women by offering legislative solutions to the challenges and legal problems facing American women.
According to Jackson, she plans to restore certain programs and services — such as medical and educational programs — that were recently underfunded or cut entirely in the wake of ongoing state budget issues.
“Women and children have been disproportionately impacted by budget cut. What I want to do is repair the damage of the services and programs, [and] at the same time govern responsibly and not fall into the damages again,” Jackson said. “We need to consider the impact, and how we restore the programs and funding that include women and affect women.”
Lupita Cortez Alcalá, who is the second vice- chair of the California Commission on the Status of Women, said Jackson has always been an active supporter of women’s rights. Alcalá said Jackson will now work alongside Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal to represent women’s interests.
“Senator Jackson has always been a tireless advocate for women,” Alcalá said. “Together with Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal — chair of the LWC — the caucus will elevate the issues that most impact women.”
According to Judy Patrick, president and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of California, Jackson has the potential to be a crucial voice to political discussions. Patrick said she hopes Jackson will investigate the government’s impact on women within the state.
“Senator Jackson is a fabulous and energetic leader … It is really great to have her back as a strong ally. She has a strong, fierce voice,” Patrick said. “My hope is that they take a deep look at the support structure of women in California.”
Jackson said she will ensure the voices of her constituents are heard, adding that the fight for gender equality is not yet over.
“[My job] is to make sure that women’s voices are heard and we are equally represented — whether it be on staff or in the teaching field — and also in the various fields, such as engineering and whatever opportunity women choose to approach,” Jackson said. “I want to protect women’s health care, especially as we saw in the last election on women’s reproductive decision-making.”
Female policymakers and other supporters of women’s rights must engage in legislative decision-making that produces more creative and effective representation of women, Patrick said.
“When there are more women involved in policy discussions, the conversations are different. There are more ideas and more creativity,” Patrick said. “Women really have a softening impact on political discussions. Voices of women, in general, and the concerns that impact women, can be underrepresented.”
In fact, the entrance of females into the political sphere has introduced a wide range of monumental accomplishments for women’s rights — such as marriage benefits and child care laws, Alcalá said.
“Women’s voices are crucial to produce meaningful policy. From physicians to judges, there was a time when men made all the decisions about women’s well-being,” Alcalá said. “Having elected women expressing their voices has resulted in everything from child care subsidies, the right to divorce, even the right to wear pants.”
A version of this article appeared on page 3 of January 23rd, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.