Ingham promotes equity for women while facing 1:13 gender ratio on commisson

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The Ingham County Commission passed a resolution declaring March 2022 Women’s History Month for Ingham while facing the reality that it could be looking at a future board containing only one female commissioner. 

“Our County Board of Commissioners faces a sadly shrinking female minority,” said Commissioner Emily Stivers. Only three of the 14 county commissioners are women. Two of those women are not seeking reelection. 

Stivers said she hoped the resolution encouraged women to run for county commissioner and other government positions. “Ingham County has strong female leadership,” Stivers said. “Female candidates can find strong support.” The filing deadline is April 19, 2022, and there will be several seats without incumbents. 

Women make up over 51% of the population of Ingham County, and 50.2% of the workforce. Such a ratio deserves proportionate representation in government.

“The best way to honor Women’s History is to make it,” said Stivers. The county has passed some variation of this resolution annually for many years, but women in the county administration acknowledged the value of renewing and updating it each year. 

Recent additions to the resolution literature include the women “who have played critical roles during the pandemic and persevered through the widespread challenges of COVID-19.” Over 75% of healthcare workers in Ingham County are women, and the updated resolution acknowledges the work they have done over the last two years.

 By the time the 2023 resolution is passed, board members hope that it will be speaking for several newly inducted female commissioners, inspired by years past, ready to push forward a new year of Ingham County women’s history. 

County Commissioner Irene Cahill said the Women’s Commission, and specifically chairwomen Kasey Bey-Klein, is the main collaborator in updating the resolution. Cahill also sits on the Women’s Commission, and said even though the resolution is annually renewed, each year is as important as the last.

“There’s not enough attention paid to Women’s History Month,” said Cahill. “There is such an amazing group of women that have come from near and far that live in the county.” The resolution mainly aims to recognize and inspire women in Ingham. 

County Clerk Barbara Byrum said “women make up over 50% of the population. It is unfortunate that they do not make up an equal amount of elected officials.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women hold only about 37% of legal and government jobs in Ingham County.

“We have some amazing women that have come from Ingham County and have deep roots here,” said Byrum. She noted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and former senator Deborah Stabenow, both of whom live in Ingham County, staying close to their history. 

Byrum said the resolution reminds her of her mother, Dianne Byrum. As a former county commissioner, former state representative, former senator, and chair of the Michigan State University board of trustees, Dianne Byrum set an example for her daughter, and Barbara Byrum hopes the resolution encourages others to do the same. 

 “I applaud all of the women from Ingham County that are breaking down barriers, breaking that glass ceiling, and showing our young girls, our future, what futures are available to them,” said Byrum. “We need to encourage and empower women to reach their goals as they open the doors for future women behind them.”

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