Our Role in Passage of the Landmark Law Supporting Women’s Economic Well-Being

(May 12, 2014) On Mother’s Day (May 11), Minnesota made history! Before a packed room of legislators, advocates, families and media, Gov. Mark Dayton signed the Women’s Economic Security Act of 2014 (Act) into state law. What an incredible day for all Minnesotans.

At the Capitol that day, Lee Roper-Batker, Foundation president and CEO, was among leadership asked to meet with the Governor in his private chambers before the signing, and then to be among a small line-up of speakers that made brief remarks after he signed the Act into law.

Each speaker — which included Senate President Sandy Pappas, House Speaker Paul Thissen, Rep. Carly Melin, and Commissioner Kevin Lindsey (MN Dept. of Human Rights) — praised the contributions and leadership provided by the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. The air was positively electric with possibility and celebration, and Lee said that she had never been prouder to be a part of this organization and of the leadership role we played all legislative session to pass the Act.

This is the first time in state history that policymakers — Republicans and Democrats, alike — prioritized women’s economic security as key to the overall economic security of the state and of all Minnesotans. The Act addressed the root causes that prevent our state’s women from gaining an economic foothold and securing a pathway to prosperity.

None of this would have been possible without the generosity and support of our donor advisors and closest supporters. Their support enabled us to hire Jill Sletten (lobbyist) to represent our interests at the state Capitol. Her wise strategic counsel expertly guided us through all of the political mine fields, hearings and committees to full passage in the House and Senate, straight through to the historic signing.

It also enabled us to support the work of the MN Coalition for Women’s Economic Security, a group of key nonprofits that led efforts at the Capitol. The Coalition included the Women’s Foundation, University of MN Humphrey School’s Center on Women & Public Policy (our research partner), AARP, Minnesota Women’s Consortium, Pay Equity Coalition, WomenVenture, GenderJustice, and Office on the Economic Status of Women. Our funding also paid for the design and printing of needed materials, plus media outreach across the state.

The Act was introduced at the beginning of the legislative session in February 2014, with key interest and leadership generated by House Speaker Paul Thissen.

Our involvement began much earlier. Well before the session began, Kim Borton (our director of programs) and Lee met with House Speaker Thissen. He asked us how the Legislature could do something for women. Our newly published (Jan. 2014) economics research on the status of women and girls in Minnesota contained just the answer. We could not be more pleased that this research served as the basis for each bill that comprised the Act.

During that same meeting, we offered to provide thought-leadership, support from business, and the hiring of a top-rated lobbyist. We also offered to handle any small appropriation or matching-fund needs. We delivered.

And with the stroke of Gov. Dayton’s pen on May 11, Minnesota became the first state in the nation to write a comprehensive women’s economic security package into state law that is designed to break down barriers to economic progress for women.

This is hopeful news. As our Status of Women & Girls in Minnesota economics research shows, the number of households with children below the poverty line increased by 64 percent (from 49,818 to 81,734) over the last decade. We believe that the new laws will help to reverse this harmful trend. Moreover, the payoffs for Minnesota women and their families are enormous.

The new laws strengthen workplace protections and flexibility for pregnant women and nursing mothers, expand employment opportunities for women in high-wage/high-demand occupations, and reduce the gender pay gap through increased enforcement of equal pay laws.

What a win for the Women’s Foundation, but most importantly, for Minnesota women and families. Important laws are now in place that remove barriers to women’s economic security — enormous steps forward toward equality for all women and girls in the state.

>> Access all of the Foundation’s research on the status of women and girls in Minnesota  >> Press release   >> View research  >> Read Star Tribune Editorial   >> View Women’s Economic Security Act of 2014