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Governor Hutchinson signs Executive Order for the Commission on the Status of Women

For the first time in 50 years, there will be a report on women in the workforce in Arkansas.

ARKANSAS, USA — In his weekly briefing on Thursday, Feb. 17,  Governor Asa Hutchinson announced he signed an executive order reinstating the Arkansas Commission on the Status of Women. The last time Arkansas had this commission was in 1973, nearly 50 years ago.

The Governor says it’s time to revisit the commission as the state of women in Arkansas has significantly changed. In 1973, on average, women made 60 cents to the dollar men made. Today women make 20 percent more, which means women make 80 percent of the man’s dollar. There’s even more of a need as the pandemic placed a strain on women in the workforce.

The commission has 13 members each from different areas across the state. This time there will be one man. Two of the members on the commission are from our area. Dr. Todd Shields works at the University of Arkansas’ Fulbright College in Fayetteville, he’s the one man on the commission. The other local member is Gayatri Agnew, a city council member from Bentonville.

As previously mentioned, between 1973 and 2021 on average women came 20% closer to pay equity, but it’s not a full 100 percent. The commission says the goal is equity. As there is work towards pay equity for women in the workforce,  there are also hopes for diversity within women. This time around, Agnew hopes the commission will take a deeper look into race as a part of its analysis. She says that intersectionality in the workplace has a large impact on pay equity.

“I know personally as a woman of color, I want to make sure we’re looking at these data with a really critical eye and we’re asking the right questions. So, it’s not about black versus white, not just about understanding the intersectionality,” Agnew said.

The commission will also be taking a deeper look at why more women left the workforce during the pandemic. The report will help the Governor to reevaluate how to provide support and access to work in Arkansas. 

“Not just in Arkansas, but across the united states, we’ve seen a mass exodus from the labor force of women, largely because of child care and school closures and changes,” Agnew added.

Governor Hutchinson is expecting a full report from the commission on or before Dec. 1, 2022.

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