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Do we need more robust long-term proposals to promote gender equity?

Thursday, November 30, 2017 by Jessi Devenyns

In a long-studied response to Austin City Council’s Gender Equity Resolution, on Nov. 27 Commissioner Ashley Normand presented a comprehensive recommendation to improve long-term gender equity in Austin to the Human Rights Commission. “I went to the census survey and found some real disparities (between men and women),” said Normand. “I think that’s important that the data be broken down further.” She pointed to the Equity Office as a sign of improvement but said that when it comes to policy decisions, gender should be given priority in addition to race. “There are a lot of programs that are really great, but there is no one office that is looking at this systemically,” she noted. In an effort to make the original resolution passed by Council more robust, she suggested that Council appoint the Law Department to investigate and determine if some of the resolutions can be turned into ordinances “because there is not otherwise an affirmative equity action in place,” she said. The original resolution explores paid family leave, protection of employees’ right to express breast milk in the workplace, prohibition of salary history requests in connection with hiring, protection of family caregivers from employment discrimination, and protection of victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and stalking from discrimination in housing or employment. Normand also recommended that Council prioritize the current rape kit backlog at Austin Police Department. As of March 2017, there were still 1,700 kits left to be processed. She explained that a continued backlog will allow criminals to continue to commit crimes without repercussions. “What kills me is that rapists tend to be serial criminals,” she said. Commissioner Gary Brown noted that the Public Safety Commission is currently working on this backlog. Nevertheless, Normand insisted that more transparency was needed to effectively clear the outstanding kits through the lab. Chair Sareta Davis agreed with her observation, saying, “It’s a major crisis of public confidence, and it needs transparency.” The Human Rights Commission will reconvene in January, at which point it will vote on whether to pass Normand’s proposed recommendation.

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