Originally Published by Representatives Lisa Cutter and Monica Duran
Research shows that including women can have a cooperative, democratizing impact on groups that make decisions – groups like state legislatures. But the mere presence of women sprinkled throughout the Colorado General Assembly may not be enough. This same research suggests that when women are isolated or outnumbered in groups, they are less likely to speak up and more likely to be talked over when they do.
But when women come together in sufficient numbers to support each other and speak collectively we can overcome hidden biases, both our male colleagues’ and our own. This empowers us to productively address issues that support women, children, families and communities, to the benefit of all Coloradans.
This is the idea behind the Democratic Women’s Caucus of Colorado, where women in the State House and Senate come together to strategize around issues of equity, justice, health, safety and the environment. Because the Caucus gives us strength in numbers we can ensure women’s voices, opinions and ideas are heard and advanced.
The Caucus asks a set of policy questions to decide which bills to focus on. What does the bill do? Will it improve the lives of women (including trans women), children and families? Does it support people and families of color? Does it advance gender equity? Could it result in healthier air, land and water? And finally, can our involvement make a difference in the success of the bill?
For the 2022 legislative session, the Caucus choose to raise the profile and lend support to four bills. Our first priority, the Reproductive Health Equity Act, passed both chambers and is in front of the Governor as we write. This bill codifies the will of the majority of Coloradans, guaranteeing women the right to make their own reproductive care decisions, including electing an abortion, no matter what happens in Washington, D.C.
Next, we support a bill exempting essential hygiene items like period products and diapers from sales tax, recognizing that these are basic necessities, especially for working parents and girls in school. We also back a bill that delivers health benefits for children and pregnant persons regardless of immigration status, with the goal of reducing disparities and improving outcomes for everyone in our community. Both these bills are being considered in committee. We are further committed to a future bill that will increase protections for workers against discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
Even though statistically women focus more on issues of families, children, the disadvantaged, health care and the environment, that doesn’t mean these are “women’s concerns,” any more than taxes, infrastructure and economics are “men’s concerns.” All these things matter to everyone living in Colorado. By amplifying women’s voices and empowering them to share equally in decision-making, we bring a wealth of diverse ideas, skills and solutions to the Colorado General Assembly and our constituents.