Women’s History Month panel to address status of women in Tennessee

March 17, 2003

No one wants to be last. Or second to last.

Yet that’s where Tennessee is – second to last – in terms of women’s status. According to a 2002 report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), the Volunteer State ranks 50th when comparing composite indices for key indicators such as employment and earnings, social and economic autonomy, political participation, reproductive rights and health and well-being.

Reasons for Tennessee’s current situation and possible solutions to the problems will be the topics of a panel discussion scheduled for 7-8:30 p.m., March 25, in Lawson Auditorium of Maryville College’s Fayerweather Hall. The question “Why is Tennessee 50th (in the Status of Women), and What Can We Do About It?” will be posed, with answers and suggestions coming from panelists and audience members.

According to the IWPR report, “Tennessee reflects both the advances and limited progress achieved by women in the United States. Women in Tennessee and the U.S. as a whole are seeing important changes in their lives and in their access to political, economic and social rights. However, they by no means enjoy equality with men, and they still lack many of the legal guarantees that would allow them to achieve equality.

“Women in Tennessee and the nation,” the report continues, “would benefit from stronger enforcement of equal opportunity laws, better political representation, adequate and affordable child care and other policies that would help improve their status.”

The March 25 forum is being coordinated in observance of National Women’s History Month and is sponsored by AAUW, Omicron Delta Kappa, Maryville College’s Sisters in Spirit, the Tennessee Economic Council on Women, and the Blount County YWCA.

Panelists include Barbara Devaney, executive director of the Tennessee Economic Council on Women; Mary Ann Blankenship, assistant executive director of the Tennessee Education Association (TEA); and Becky Evans, a Maryville College student.

Devaney holds a master’s degree from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree from Tulane University. Prior to her appointment with the Tennessee Economic Council on Women, she directed United Way of Middle Tennessee’s allocation process and founded and directed their training and consultation program for non-profit executive directors and board members. She was STARS Development and Finance Director and is on the Board of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee Women’s Fund.

Blankenship is the highest-ranking female staff member of TEA, an organization comprised of 60,000 Tennessee educators. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and French from Georgetown College (Ky.) and a master’s degree in secondary school curriculum from the University of Kentucky. Prior to joining the TEA, she taught in middle schools and worked for teachers’ associations in Kentucky and Maryland as well as for the National Education Association.

Evans, a senior from Johnson City, Tenn., is majoring in sociology and Spanish at the College. She is a member of the College Democrats and a Bonner Scholar.

In 1987, the National Women’s History Project petitioned Congress to expand a national celebration of women throughout the entire month of March. The National Women’s History Month Resolution has been approved in both the House and the Senate with bipartisan support.

The forum is free and open to the public. For more information concerning the event, contact Dr. Kathie Shiba, associate professor of psychology, at 865.981.8270. Additional information can be found at http://www.iwpr.org/ or www.nwhp.org