In this Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, staff file photo, Councilwoman Carol Berz speaks during the Mayor's Council for Women luncheon at Bessie Smith Cultural Center in Chattanooga.

If you go

› What: Statewide Women’s Policy Conference

› When: 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 9

› Where: Westin Hotel, Chattanooga

› Registration: $135 regular, $25 student

Register at forwomen/womenspolicyconference.

If women are suffering or being held back in Tennessee, then it's up to Tennessee women to do something about it.

That's the foundation for the statewide Women's Policy Conference being held in Chattanooga on Feb. 9, put together by the Mayor's Council for Women. The event features a daylong series of speakers and panel discussions on topics ranging from women's health to political participation and economic opportunity.

It comes out of a 2015 report on women's status by the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington, D.C.

In that report, Tennessee and Kentucky tied for 49th among the 5o states and the District of Columbia. In "report card" style, the institute gave Tennessee one "C" and five "D's" on issues affecting women.

And Tennessee ranked among the worst states for women in each of the five years the policy research institute published reports: 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2015.

"The report card for Tennessee was abysmal to say the least," said Chattanooga Councilwoman Carol Berz, who headed the steering committee on the Mayor's Council for Women that spent about four months putting the conference together.

The goal is "to bring together women from across Tennessee to learn about current legislation affecting women's lives and to inspire new policy initiatives that will impact their future," an introduction in the conference program states.

The Institute for Women's Policy Research report from 2015 says progress for American women has been decidedly mixed.

"In 2015, women are now almost half the U.S. workforce, half of all breadwinners in families with young children, and are more likely than men in the United States to have a college degree," the report states.

But at the same time, women "still face a wide wage gap that has not budged much in the last decade, disproportionate poverty rates, and wide disparities in health outcomes and experiences with violence, all of which is even more stark for women of color."

Conference speakers

“Tennessee Report Card: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being for Women” — Julie Anderson, senior research associate, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Washington, D.C.

“Tennessee Legislative Update and the Importance of Political Participation” — Mandy Haynes Young, Butler Snow LLP, Nashville

“The State of Financial Well-being for Tennessee Women” — Introduction by state Rep. Karen Camper, Memphis

“Women’s Heath” — Introduction by Katherlyn Geter, Mayor’s Council for Women Health Committee

“Changing our Future: Political and Economic Empowerment” — Lucy Gettman, executive director, Women in Government Foundation Inc., Washington, D.C.

Other topics include the Op-Ed Project; Implicit Bias in the Workplace; Sexual Harassment, and Human Trafficking.

Berz said the 3-year-old council formed by Mayor Andy Berke has studied a variety of issues facing women in areas from health, education and families to leadership, justice and political and economic opportunity.

"We have only scratched the surface," she said. The conference is aimed at helping women "to learn from each other, to inspire each other and to empower each other to act."

Women are coming from across the state. Berz said they are estimating attendance of at least 300, but registration is still open. She said there's a fund for women who want to attend but can't afford the $135 fee.

Stacy Richardson, Berke's chief of staff, said groups including the Women's Fund, the Chattanooga Women's Leadership Institute, 100 Black Women and others have worked to put the conference together.

Richardson said the administration hopes this will just be the first such conference, but she's not sure if it will be an annual event.

"The [mayor's council] feels very passionately that the issues affecting women in Chattanooga are not just Chattanooga issues, and not just Tennessee issues," she said.

"We think this conference is going to be an important way of convening people across the state to move the ball forward in years to come. It's also about women leaders meeting other women leaders across the state who share similar interests. ... Our role is to support them in what they want to accomplish."


Political participation: D-

Includes voter registration and turnout, representation in elected office and women's institutional resources. Best grade: New Hampshire, B+.

Employment and earnings: C-

Among full-time, year-round workers, includes median annual earnings, gender earning ration, women's labor force participation and percentage of women in managerial/professional jobs. Best grade: District of Columbia, A.

Work and family: D

Includes paid leave; dependent and elder care; child care, and labor force gender gap for parents of children under age 6. Best grade: New York, B.

Poverty and opportunity: D

Includes health insurance coverage, college education, business ownership and the poverty rate. Best grade: District of Columbia, A-.

Reproductive rights: D-

Includes mandatory consent/notification for minors' abortions; waiting periods and restrictions on public funding for abortions; percent of women living in counties with at least one abortion provider; pro-choice governors or legislatures; Medicaid expansion or state Medicaid family planning eligibility expansions; infertility treatment coverage; same-sex marriage or second-parent adoption for same-sex couples; mandatory sex education. Best: Oregon, A-.

Health and well-being: D-

Includes mortality rates from hear disease, breast cancer and lung cancer; incidence of diabetes, chlamydia and AIDS; average days per month of poor mental health; average days of health-limited activities; suicide mortality rates. Best: Minnesota, A-.

Source: Institute for Women's Policy Research

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at or 423-757-6416.