A pair of powerhouse keynote speakers. An engaging group of panelists. And GBPI’s own Melissa Johnson, a senior policy analyst behind new research spotlighting four key policy levers to advance economic opportunity for Georgia women.
Those are just a few of the ingredients that made for a day of inspiration, celebration and commitment to make Georgia a better environment for women to work. The August 26 forum was held in conjunction with the release of Johnson’s “Women Working Ahead: An Economic Opportunity Agenda for Georgia Women.” The Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta hosted the forum.
Former Mayor Shirley Franklin stressed during her keynote that the road to success is paved with finding common ground and ways to talk with all kinds of people. She said she wore one of her trademark flowers on her dress to illustrate the point.
“I never wear a flower anymore,” Franklin said near the end of her remarks. “Why do you think I wore one today? I want you to know how I communicate with people who are different than me. When I was mayor it was a strategy to open the doors to a relationship when people are not natural allies. It was a communications strategy.”
Ms. Foundation for Women CEO Teresa Younger kicked off the morning with a message about the importance of presenting data as in Johnson’s rich report and also empowering women to tell their stories.
The “Women Working Ahead” research lays out an initial economic opportunity agenda with four specific policy changes Georgia lawmakers have at hand.
- Close Georgia’s coverage gap by expanding Medicaid eligibility
- Make child care affordable and accessible
- Enact the Georgia Work Credit, a state Earned Income Tax Credit
- Raise the state minimum wage to $10.10 per hour
Nearly 200 people packed into the federation’s auditorium in Midtown Atlanta for the half-day event. Applause punctuated many of the day’s comments. By late morning the hashtag #WomenWorkingAhead was trending on Twitter, as was @GaBudget.
The crowd was mostly women, a point noted by one of the panelists.
“There are a few men in this crowd, but there should be more,” said panelist Marlaina Guillaume, a program analyst at the U.S. Department of Labor. The policies identified in Johnson’s report are family-friendly and not just for the benefit of women, she noted.
Fellow panelist Gas South CEO Kevin Greiner said family-friendly policies are good business, retaining key workers who give great customer service. Hours after the conference he announced his company will set a minimum hourly rate of $15.
Closing out the day, Franklin noted that big change takes vision and persistence. She held up the booklet version of Johnson’s report published for the event to make her point.
“Unless we make these issues a priority in every conversation with every political leader, with every business leader, with every civic leader, we are not going to move the needle,” Franklin said. “What moves the needle is a movement of people who make [an issue] a priority.”
GBPI Executive Director Taifa Smith Butler closed the day with an echo of Franklin’s remarks and a call to action. “My challenge to you is – what are you going to do to move the needle?”