March 22, 2019

The board room was filled with a sea of purple Thursday as the all-female Board of Commissioners declared March “Women’s History Month” in Multnomah County.

Women’s History Month honors all the achievements of women, past and present, and acknowledges the work that still must be done to achieve gender equity. Multnomah County is dedicated to lifting women of every race, ethnicity, class, gender identity, ability and sexual orientation.  

“I am truly thrilled to be able to co-sponsor this Women’s History Month proclamation with Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson,” Commissioner Susheela Jayapal said. “I’m particularly thrilled to co-sponsor this proclamation as a member of this majority-minority and all-women Board of Commissioners, and to celebrate the progress we are making in electing women to political leadership in our region.” 

(Left to right): Kandice Jimenez, Andrea Paluso, Cherie Martin and Shannon Olive brief the Board of County Commissioners on efforts to improve women's quality of life in Multnomah County.

A panel of invited guests included Andrea Paluso of Family Forward; Cherie Martin of NARAL Oregon; Shannon Olive of WomenFirst; and Kandice Jimenez of Sisters in the Brotherhood. The panel briefed the commissioners on progress for women’s causes in the community.

Women make up nearly half of the entire U.S. workforce but earn on average 80.5 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make. Other factors including sexism, racism and gender roles can compound that burden.

Each panelist discussed topics affecting women in 2019, including: paid time off, equal pay for equal work, women’s reproductive rights, women’s access to behavioral health services, and working in the trades. Here are the voices of the women leaders, in their own words:

“All of our economic structures, everyone else’s work, depends on, and is built on the unpaid, or low-paid, sometimes exploited labor of women to provide care for family members and others in paid work.” - Andrea Paluso

“We know the right to choose when and, if, to have a child is meaningless without social change and legislative action that empowers Oregonians to care for themselves and their families, achieve economic security, live without violence or deportation, and to live life free from discrimination.” - Cherie Martin

“Black mothers and children die at disproportionately higher rates than white counterparts, regardless of income levels. Researchers have suggested that racism, which produces segregated neighborhoods with fewer hospitals, higher rates of chronic illness and equal access to healthcare, is the main culprit.” - Shannon Olive

“I am an exterior-interior specialist and a single mother of three and that’s actually one of the biggest challenges we have in the carpentry industry right now. . . . Nobody really knew what to do, or knows what to do, with a pregnant woman on a construction site.” - Kandice Jimenez

Each panelist also shared progress in their fields: more integration of women into the trades, success stories of women in recovery, reproductive justice efforts at the legislative level, and policy changes that further empower women in caregiving.

Reflecting on all that’s been accomplished, the Board celebrated the success in lifting women of all backgrounds in Multnomah County while affirming the need to continue fighting for women’s equality in all stages of life.

“Local government really should be leading the way, and we’re trying to here, with our paid family leave, supporting the efforts in Salem so that we can have all women and men across our state can have the same benefits that our employees have here in Multnomah County,” Chair Deborah Kafoury said. “As sisters we need to bring all of our sisters together, sisters of all races and ethnicities.”