11/11/2010 04:46 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Women's Agenda for Mayoral Candidates

With the close of the November election cycle, we now make the shift to educating ourselves about the next big race--the Chicago mayoral election. Already, we have a group of impressive, would-be candidates pledging to work with Gov. Quinn. As the leader of an organization serving over 138,000 women, children and families each year in Chicago, my focus during the mayoral race is to encourage all candidates to pay attention to the needs of their future constituents.

As a first step, I am introducing a woman's agenda for all the mayoral candidates to co-opt. This agenda is formed by my knowledge of what women and families need to make their lives better. It comes from leading an organization with 135 years in the business of caring for women and is directly shaped by the women and girls the YWCA serves every year.

Not only is adopting a women's agenda politically smart, as women make up 72.8 percent of registered voters, but it also will make a difference. When women are empowered, their children, extended families, and communities benefit as well. The result is a better Chicago for all its citizens.

To the Chicago mayoral candidates: please consider adopting these agenda items into your platform. To the voters: as you consider the qualifications of the mayoral candidates, make sure your final vote goes to the person who recognizes the importance of supporting and empowering women.

Proposed Women's Agenda: A 10-Point Plan for the Chicago Mayoral Candidates

1. Transform city hall into a model for other employers by:

  • Ensuring that women and men are paid the same for the same day's work.
  • Providing "livable" wages, not minimum wages.
  • Filling 51 percent of senior roles in city government with women.
  • Providing paid sick leave for hourly workers.
  • Offering a flexible work day so men and women can overcome gaps in care for children and aging parents.

2. Charge the Chicago Board of Education with the creation of an anti-racism policy and a training program mandated for themselves, teachers and students.

3. Help support working women by funding training and support for child care providers who will care for infants and providers who stay open late to help women who work the night shift.

4. Women now make up over half the workforce, but account for less than 22 percent of working scientists, engineers and computer professionals. Ask corporate leaders to provide funding for more opportunities for girls to learn science, technology, engineering and math.

5. Provide funding and infrastructure support for the city-wide rape crisis hotline. YWCA Metropolitan Chicago provides support for the hotline that now receives 3,000 calls every year. Can you imagine how many more women, children and men will get the urgent help they need if the city provided greater awareness of the service?

6. Appoint a special commission to address the issues of rape, stalking and trafficking. Charge the commission with: 1) strengthening the collaboration between emergency responders, crisis counselors and prosecutors; 2) launching a public awareness campaign designed to prevent sexual violence; and 3) providing safe places for women and girls to live free from fear.

7. Raise women out of poverty by promoting home ownership, enforcing fair housing standards and eliminating predatory lending. The higher the home ownership rate in a neighborhood, the lower the probability of crime. Pride of ownership will transform neighborhoods into safer places for children.

8. Commit to participating fully in Chicago's minority- and women-owned business program. Increase the percentage of contracts awarded to women from 5 percent to 10 percent and honor the 25 percent level for minority-owned businesses.

9. Understand the impact that your pledge of support for pregnant and parenting teen girls and boys will have on generational poverty. Only about 50 percent of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by age 22, verses nearly 90 percent of women who have not given birth during adolescence. Make it easier for teen parents to graduate from high school, go to college and find a job so they can support their families and end the cycle of poverty.

10. Work with nonprofit leaders, corporate CEOs and other philanthropists to create a new city pride and a new spirit of giving to human services organizations. The museums, the symphony and the ballet are important and vital to our quality of life. But human service organizations provide critical support to people, who are the very foundation of the city.

Our mayoral candidates will do well to address these issues during the campaign. When women prosper, communities thrive, resulting in a stronger Chicago for all.