Four years ago, Sen. Lesil McGuire commissioned a report on the status of women in Alaska. The result was shocking: Alaska is the one of the most dangerous places for women to live in the nation.
The report was a call to action for a senator who had never taken on the softer social issues. A lawyer by training, Sen. McGuire had more forcefully championed Arctic development and is known for her economic and budget-related legislation.
The report was the beginning of the Alaska Women’s Summit. McGuire collaborated with Janet Weiss of BP, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and Karen Hagedorn of ExxonMobil to launch the annual conference and try to create momentum on the economic and social conditions of women in Alaska.
This year’s featured speaker is Rosie Rios, who is the Treasurer of the United States, overseeing the U.S. Mint, Bureau of Engraving and Printing and Fort Knox and who is a key liaison with the Federal Reserve. She will be introduced by Julie Fate-Sullivan.
The fourth annual summit is Friday, Oct. 28 beginning at 8 am at the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage.
“When you invest in bringing up the quality of life for women, you grow the domestic product of the state and in turn improve the quality of life for all people,” McGuire said. “If women better understand their relationship with money, if they understand home ownership, this is all traced back to the economic empowerment of women. It’s about trying to meaningfully improve ourselves so we can improve the statistics around women generally.”
The history of women’s conferences sometimes looks adversarial to men, and McGuire is determined to change that.
“This is not the conference for bra-burners, and it’s not anti-men,” she said. “But if you look at women in Alaska, while those who are single are much less likely to be homeless than men, once they have children then those numbers shoot through the roof, and so do suicide rates, which are 10 times the national average.”
“We need to do what we can to support mothers who still need to make an economic contribution because of their children,” she said. “If we have a better quality of life, our children benefit, and because women are the primary caretakers for aging parents, our seniors also benefit, and so do our husbands and partners.