With the theme of turning ideas into action, the Maine Women’s Policy Center hosted their second Maine Women’s Summit on Economic Security Friday at the Augusta Civic Center.

Caroline Fredrickson, author and president of the American Constitution Society, delivered the keynote address to a crowd of 200 plus attendees representing 25 organizations. Fredrickson, author of “Under the Bus: How Working Women Are Being Run Over,” used her 45 minute speech to touch on a number of subjects including wage inequality in the workplace, gender bias, policy gaps, and how the burgeoning sharing economy mirrors the longtime struggle of low wage female workers.

“Something that effects low income women and women of color is that we have designed a set of workplace benefits that depends on the categorization of a worker as an employee,” Fredrickson said. “This has become newsworthy lately because of the so-called sharing economy.”

The sharing economy refers to new types of businesses — Uber, Lyft and Airbnb are examples — in which people provide services such as transportation or overnight accommodations and are paid by online companies that help them make connections to customers. Lawsuits against the companies are pending as the courts work to help clarify the difference between employees and independent contractors.

“For low wage women, this is an old, old story of being denied the benefits workers are entitled to,” Fredrickson said.

Eliza Townsend, executive director of the Maine Women’s Policy Center, said the daylong conference is designed to educate the public and highlight the struggle against poverty many women face in the United States and in Maine. She cited census data from September that showed that one in seven women live in poverty in the U.S., and in Maine, 58 percent of women who are single heads of household and have a child under 5, are living in poverty.

“This is not just an effect on them but on society as a whole because it effects their health, the brain development of their children and the long-term ripple effects,” Townsend said. “Science now tells us poverty has a lifelong impact on your brain and physical health.”

For Sarah Joy Chaples, workforce development specialist for the Augusta-based New Ventures, an organization dedicated to helping Maine residents succeed in business, careers and community, the daylong summit provided an opportunity to learn.

“It’s important information to pass along to our clients and in turn they can pass it on to communities,” Chaples said.

South China resident Sally Brotherton, who describes herself as an activist, said she attended to lend a voice in hopes of creating a better future for her daughters and granddaughters.

“All of the activism I’ve done hasn’t seemed to change much,” Brotherton said. “In some ways I’m cynical but I do have hope.”

The event was scheduled to feature a number of workshops throughout the day including a panel discussion with Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, CEO of Goodwill Industries of Northern New England and state Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport. Roosevelt, who took over at the Portland-based nonprofit in 2001, is the granddaughter of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt.

The Maine Women’s Policy Center, based in Augusta, was founded in 1990 to “improve the economic, social, and political status of women and girls in Maine through public policy and leadership development and especially seek to serve those women who are underrepresented in the formation of public policy — particularly rural women and women with low incomes,” according to its website.

The organization held a similar event in 2013, according to Kathy Kilrain del Rio, Maine Women’s Policy Center director of program and development.

In her closing remarks, Fredrickson said there has been “good discussion” about economic disparity in recent years.

“We can make change together,” she said. “Leaning in should really be leaning together.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.