New Non-Profit Initiative Launched to Advance Work of Former CT Women’s Commission

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Mary Lee Kiernan. Credit: PCSW Facebook

A group of former State Commissioners and former key employees of the Connecticut Permanent Commission on the Status of Women (PCSW) have launched a new non-profit to advance the work of this former state agency.

As part of the budget implementer bill passed last spring in Hartford, the 43 year-old PCSW was eliminated. PCSW had been the largest women’s commission left in the United States, with a legacy of developing landmark legislation and research in the areas of sexual harassment, domestic violence, family medical leave protections, pay equity, and human trafficking. A new, combined commission called the Commission on Women, Children and Seniors (CWCS) was established to address policy issues for women, as well as policy issues for all children and seniors across the state of Connecticut.

“We will partner with leaders in Hartford, CWCS, and organizations around the state to ensure that the public policy agenda for women and girls addressed by the former PCSW continues to move forward. We will provide expertise, research, resources, and advocacy to improve the lives of women and girls in this state,” said Mary Lee Kiernan, former Chair of the PCSW and President of the newly formed Permanent Commission on the Status of Women in Connecticut Education Fund, Inc. (PCSW Education Fund, Inc.).

PCSW Education Fund, Inc. is applying for 501(c)(3) tax status with the IRS. Pro-Bono legal services arebeing provided by Wiggin & Dana, LLP. PFK O’Conner Davies, LLP will serve as auditors.

An advisory board to the PCSW Education Fund, Inc. has been established that includes Senator Richard Blumenthal; Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro; former PCSW Executive Director and current President of the Ms. Foundation, Teresa Younger; former PCSW Honorary Commissioner and Executive Director of the Women’s Campaign School at Yale, Patricia Russo; former PCSW Honorary Commissioner Patricia Hendel; and former PCSW Honorary Commissioner Barbara DeBaptiste.

“Our new initiative will advocate in the same key policy areas addressed by the former PCSW, including economic security; health and safety for women of all ages; discrimination in all forms; education; and women’s leadership,” explained Carolyn Treiss, Executive Director of the former PCSW and President of the newly formed Permanent Commission on the Status of Women in Connecticut, Inc. (PCSW, Inc.). PCSW, Inc. is applying for 501(c)(4) tax status with the IRS and intends to advocate for an annual legislative agenda in these key policy areas. 501(c)(4) tax status allows for unlimited advocacy on legislation.

“Importantly, these new non-profits have bipartisan leadership and non-partisan
mandates. They will build broad coalitions across political parties that can help move legislation forward,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Gender discrimination and violence against women must be addressed continually, and I look forward to supporting the important work of this new initiative.”

Congresswoman DeLauro emphasized that the impacts of gender discrimination are more acute than ever before. “The agenda for women and girls is critically important to our state and our nation. We need to move forward on paid family medical leave, chronic wage disparities, discriminatory workplace practices and human trafficking,” DeLauro said. “Building off of the long history of the PCSW’s success, this new initiative is uniquely poised to continue their innovative and effective work on these issues—ensuring this legislative agenda continues to be at the forefront of public policy discussion and debate.”

The board members of these two entities currently consist of eleven of the sixteen former PCSW commissioners, the former PCSW Executive Director and the former PCSW Policy Director. These individuals provide expertise on a wide variety of issues affecting women and girls, and they represent all regions of the state.

“I am impressed with the expertise that our board members bring, particularly around the intersection of gender with issues of race, ethnicity, age, religion, and socio-economic status,” said Catherine Ernsky, President of the Ernsky Group and Vice President of the PCSW Education Fund, Inc.

Board members also bring experience in the areas of law, finance, medicine, insurance, communications, philanthropy, health equity, criminal justice, state and local government, legislation, education, environmental justice, organized labor, and non-profit leadership.

PCSW Education Fund, Inc. and PCSW Inc. intend to collaborate with non-profit partners from around the state, the new CWCS, and leaders in Hartford to continue the long legacy of progress for women and girls established by the former state agency.

“Collaboration in this space is key,” said Fran Pastore, President of the Women’s Business Development Council, a frequent collaborator with the former PCSW. “The board members of these entities are well-known for building effective coalitions. I hope to work with them to improve financing for women-owned businesses and workplace practices impacting women. Ultimately, these issues spur economic growth and improve the lives of everyone in the state.”

The Permanent Commission on the Status of Women in Connecticut Education Fund, Inc. and the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women in Connecticut, Inc. are newly formed non-profits designed to advance the portfolio of work established by the former state agency, PCSW. For more information, please visit www.ctpcsw.org.


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