In celebration of Women's History Month, Governor Martin O'Malley today hosted thirty middle school-aged girls from across the state in Annapolis to participate in the Governors Leadership Forum for Women and Girls. The event presented an opportunity for accomplished Maryland women from numerous fields to inspire the next generation to lead both in school, and in their communities. The hand-selected group of young women were nominated by school systems across Maryland because of their leadership skills, academic progress, and participation in extracurricular activities.
"As President Obama said, "when women succeed, America succeeds.' That's why, here in Maryland, we've worked to close the pay gap for women to the lowest level nationally, appointed women judges in record numbers to the bench and increased state contract awards to women by 28 percent," said Governor O'Malley. "I'm pleased to welcome these exceptional young women to Annapolis. We created today's forum to inspire these young women, and others across Maryland, to reach for and achieve great heights."
The day kicked off with opening remarks from State Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Kim Coble, Vice President of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Their remarks were immediately followed by a panel discussion featuring distinguished women leaders, offering advice to the young women on career development. The panelists included: Karmen Brown, Comcast, Director of Government Affairs and Maryland's Second Lady; Susan Burke, a Personal Injury Attorney; Joni Jones, Executive Director, Bannekar Douglass Museum; Brooke Lierman, a Civil Rights Attorney; Bridget Newton, Mayor of Rockville; Jayne Miller, lead investigative reporter of WBAL-TV in Baltimore; and June Strekfus, Executive Director of the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education.
The event also featured activities to encourage the participants to identify leadership traits in successful woman and connect to those same qualities in themselves. After touring the State House and Government House and participating in the Maryland Day celebration, and career development exercises, the group presented ideas on topics ranging from improving participation in STEM fields to finding ways to break the "glass ceiling" in corporate America. The young women ended by visiting with Governor O'Malley, and taking a group picture with the governor and mentors from the governor's staff.
Maryland is the best state for women in the nation according to the Center for American Progress. While still too high, Maryland has the lowest wage gap in the nation between our working men and women and the third lowest poverty rate for women. Maryland is #1 in the nation for women-owned businesses; one-third of all businesses in Maryland are owned by a woman.
In 2013, Governor O'Malley gave the Maryland's highest court (the Court of Appeals) its first ever female majority when he appointed the court's first female chief judge, Judge Mary Ellen Barbera, and its first female African American judge, Judge Shirley Watts. In FY2012, MBE participation in Maryland exceeded our goal of 25% for the first time. Awards to women-owned firms increased 28% from FY2011 to FY2012.