SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — State leaders are celebrating Women’s History Month by working on issues that effect the state’s next generation of women.
Wednesday marks one year since the governor signed a bill creating a group focused on helping women and girls. The group unveiled a report with suggestions for better policies to address their needs.
With some of Springfield’s youngest and brightest in the room, lawmakers and state leaders on the Illinois Council of Women & Girls revealed their priorities to make Illinois stronger for them.
“We are so glad that you are here with us today because the work that you are doing is because we want this state to be a better place for you to live and work and study and play,” said Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton.
Stratton said there are 22 women that serve on the council who are “from diverse perspectives and backgrounds and they brought a really robust discussion around if we are trying to think about how to create opportunities for girls & women in our state.” She said that conversation led to four recommendations for next year.
Those ideas include reducing the state’s rape kit backlog, developing an economic pipeline report to help young women break into careers in STEM, and expanding postpartum care for new mothers. “We are working in the senate to respond to some of these realities,” said Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago). “The senate is already considering multiple pieces of legislation this year that relate directly to some of these concerns as well as other areas that are of specific interest to women.”
Students in attendance said watching the council come up with ideas is a source of inspiration. “When you come from a family with a single mom or parents who don’t have those higher-up careers, it’s almost kind of like walking in a room with no lights on, just bumping into walls trying to figure out what’s going to work,” said said Grace Beyers, Southeast High School student. “So having people who have powerful careers offering you mentorship or sponsorship, that is really important.”
The council also wants to focus on being inclusive, specifically looking at gender-based violence. They said it affects women and transgender women at a much higher rate then men.
In addition to the lieutenant governor and leaders from several state agencies, 16 members of the public are appointed by the General Assembly. A representative from the governor’s office is also on the council. The governor also gets to appoint four members of the public himself.