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Remarks By the Hon. Janet Napolitano Governor of Arizona

Location: Yuma, AZ

Women's History Luncheon
Wednesday, March 5, 2003
Marine Corps Air Station Sonoran Pueblo Club
Yuma, Arizona

Thank you, etc.

Arizona is a great place to talk about women's history. We have so many firsts and bests.

Women have played a role in Arizona's power structure throughout its growth.

The women's suffrage movement gained momentum in the late 1800s, culminating in voters granting suffrage rights to women in 1912, making it one of the first 10 states to do so. Women have served in the Arizona Legislature since statehood.

Throughout recent decades, Arizona has stood out as having among the highest percentages of women in the Legislature of any state.

We sent one of the first women to Congress, when we elected Isabella Greenway to represent our at-large district in 1933.

We elected Lorna Lockwood to the Arizona Supreme Court in 1960. She later served as America's first state supreme court chief justice.

When state Senator Sandra Day O'Connor became the Arizona Senate Majority Leader in 1974, she was the first in America to do so.

And when Margaret T. Hance took office as mayor of Phoenix in 1976, she became the first woman to lead a major American city.

I am proud to be a part of a long and proud history of women leaders in Arizona. The fact that I am not the first, nor second, but third woman to serve as Arizona governor is a statement in and of itself about Arizona's advanced attitude toward gender equity.

I did make just a little bit of history in November, however. I was America's first woman to succeed another woman as governor. And with my election, Arizona has the distinction of having the most women governors of any state.
But what about women outside of government?

Over the last 25 years, since the number of women have exponentially increased in the workforce, they have also contributed significantly to the progress of our State.

The last census revealed the status of women in our state altered considerably over the last decade.
Minority and women owned businesses have significantly increased over the last decade - the majority of new small businesses in the state are started by women and minorities

Arizona had one of the highest percentages of women legislators of any state in the country.

Median household income increased at a higher rate for women than for men during the last decade - more than 13 percent, compared with 2.3 percent for men.

These gains have been in spite of the number of ongoing barriers:

Woman head of households with children under 5 are more likely to be living below the poverty line. Arizona ranks 43rd for the proportion of women living in poverty.

Women who work full time earn about 73 percent of what men earn. Minority women earn even less, about 52 of their male counterparts.

Arizona has one of the highest drop out rates for Hispanic females.

Arizona ranks 4th in the nation for women murdered by men - 2nd for domestic violence related murders.

Women are very less likely to have health insurance - Arizona is 49th for the number of women who are insured.

Focus groups in our Women's Health Commission revealed that they are increasingly concerned about leaving their children in affordable and quality child care.

The role of every leader in Arizona - not just we women - is to improve the ability of government to adequately address these barriers.

We must work to alter the perception that domestic violence in a private issue. Domestic violence is a serious threat to our public safety.

Last year local governments expended tremendous resources to respond to this issue. Over 120,000 calls for services from law enforcement around the state - that's one call every 5 minutes.

There is much more that can be done on the front end to begin to alleviate the devastating effects of family violence. Efforts to increase batterer accountability and sending a strong message that our community will no longer tolerate this form of abuse.

Also, more efforts need to be made on the front end in training our first responders by requiring training for law enforcement and emergency response personnel on the prevalence and significance of domestic violence as well as referring to resources for victims and their children.

Increasing the collection of child support payments. In Arizona, on average only 43 percent of all child support payments are collected. National studies have shown that poverty among single moms with kids can be reduced by as much as 30 percent.

Supporting women in going to work by having adequate affordable housing, adequate access to child care and transportation and access to employment opportunities that include pay equity and access to upward mobility in the work place.

Many of these issues addressed are significant priorities of my administration by:
Holding harmless those services that assist women and their children throughout this challenging budget crisis.

Working in collaboration with private and public partnership to address the needs of kids to be ready to learn - one of the key players at the table will involve child care providers.

Addressing the issue of pay equity of women.

Continuing efforts to address domestic violence particularly on systems approaches for holding batterers accountable and also addressing the effects on children.

I am committed to turning the waning novelty of women in power into a new reality of addressing women's issues in all their forms with as much energy as we have addressed all of our other issues.

I can't do this along. Your legislators need to hear from you about those areas that you feel are important to you and your community.

This is the next step in the path laid by Isabella Greenway, Lorna Lockwood, Sandra Day O'Connor and the others.

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