Houston establishes city's first women's commission focusing on health and economic disparities

HOUSTON, Texas -- In an effort spearheaded by Houston City Council Member Abbie Kamin, Houston now has its first ever women's commission.

"We have put together a real powerhouse group of women who are really about the work," Kamin said. "They represent very diverse backgrounds of demographics, socioeconomic status and industries."

The commission began as a campaign promise of Kamin's in 2019 and was officially approved by City Council Aug. 25. Each council member was able to nominate residents to serve on the board, Kamin said, resulting in a diverse commission of 25 women from various backgrounds. Members will one serve a two-year term and be replaced on a staggered basis.

Vice Mayor Pro Tem Martha Castex-Tatum and Council Member Letitia Plummer, both of whom are Black, praised the board's diversity.

"As we look at the wage gap and employment issues, I know the challenges and disparities for minority women," Castex Tatum said. "So many issues are embedded in women's issues."

Plummer added that many of the issues women face are compounded by racism against women of color.

"As a single mother with many opportunities I definitely recognize the necessity of this," Plummer said. "In Texas, we lead in maternal mortality, we lead with all levels of chronic illness and in the weathering on black women."

The commission's first order of business will be identifying COVID-19 related issues that disproportionately affect women, Kamin said. The commission will be tasked with advocating for Houston-based solutions to those problems, including increased domestic violence incidents, lack of access to quality child care and higher rates of job loss.

"Women work in industries that have had the most job losses and have been forced back home due to child care issues and school issues," Kamin said. "The burden has fallen on women, and we've also seen the sharp rise of domestic violence and health care disparities."