Houston City Council in August voted to create a permanent City of Houston Women’s Commission, appointing 25 diverse local female leaders to serve on the inaugural volunteer board.
The commission will advance equality and equity for women in Houston by identifying and addressing disparities in healthcare, employment, safety and security across communities and industries, both in Houston’s public and private sector.
The effort was led by District C Councilwoman Abbie Kamin, who worked with Mayor Sylvester Turner to bring the proposal to the council.
“After over a year of planning, to see this effort come to fruition is very special,” Kamin said. “This is the first time we will have a board specifically looking at women’s equity in our city, something we must have if we want to address the substantial disparities women continue to face day to day.
"I congratulate Council Member Kamin for proposing the Houston Women's Commission. As an attorney, wife, and mother, she brings a unique perspective to public service," Turner said. "Women play a vital role in my administration and are leaders who are making significant contributions in all aspects of our diverse community.
“I look forward to seeing the commission's recommendations and working to enhance the quality of life for all women,” Turner said.
The commission will develop and propose recommendations, identify gaps in information that need further study, and advise city leaders on ways to improve the quality of life for women throughout Houston.
The inaugural year’s charge is to address the disparities that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated for women in the region, including job loss, health care and leave coverage, child-care needs and wage disparities.
“It is important to the success of government and industry alike that women are represented at every level of leadership and decision-making. With the help of our diverse business and non-profit sectors, we can empower women in our community and ensure equal playing fields of opportunity,” Kamin said.
Women face disproportionate inequities in many areas including healthcare, employment and safety, both nationally and locally. In Harris County, full-time working women only earn 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to a study by the University of Houston Institute for Research on Women, Gender & Sexuality.
Women are also more likely to experience poverty than men, a gender gap that is more pronounced in Harris County than at the national level. These disparities are even larger for Hispanic and Black women.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these existing inequities in the United States. In 2020, women experienced 1 million more job losses than men, and more than two million women have left the work force during COVID. The virus also disproportionately impacts women’s health –pregnant women are at a much higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, preterm birth, and other adverse outcomes.
The 25 women serving on Houston Women’s Commission represent a diverse cross-section of Houston:
Beth Matusoff Merfish, Carmen Peña Abrego, Elsa Caballero, Carvana Cloud, Elizabeth Gregory, Chau Nguyen, Angie Wiens-Talbert, Elizabeth Gonzalez Brock, Codi Wiener, Eureka Gilkey, Alison Young, Haley Crain Carter, Juliana Garaizar, Barbara Burger, Lori Choi, Tammi C. Wallace, Phyllis Frye, Rogene Calvert, Glenda Joe, Kristy Bridges, Christine S. Willie, Janalia Moreno, Nancy Macgregor, Tanuke Smith, Sima Ladjevardian