Wisconsin Women’s Network Task Forces foster cooperation and coordinate information on important issues in public policy. Our current active task force is the Reproductive Rights Task Force.
The Original Task Forces
When the Wisconsin Women’s Network began in 1979, the original board members created six task forces designed to focus their efforts. These task forces included the Martial Property Reform Task Force, Child Care Task Force, and the Employment Equity Task Force. Issues such as domestic violence, displaced homemakers, and sex law reform were all termed "mechanism issues" and met less often than the main task forces. As set down by the Network's bylaws, the duties of the task forces were to include:
- determining legislative/public policy priorities in the task forces' issue areas;
- monitoring relevant legislation; developing WWN's position on relevant legislation;
- advocating for WWN positions on legislation by testifying at public hearings, issuing action alerts to WWN membership, acting in coalition with other organizations with similar positions on the issues, and public education as necessary and feasible;
- submitting meeting minutes and announcements to the WWN staff in a timely fashion;
- writing occasional articles for the "Stateswoman;"
- writing the task forces' section of the WWN annual report;
- and communicating with the WWN staff and Public Policy Committee regarding the status of task force activities.
Task Forces Through the Years
The Wisconsin Women’s Network has created many different task forces in order to tackle women’s social and political issues of the past 30 years. These different task forces within the Network have worked to help push legislation, lobby politicians, and ensure the social advancement of women and girls in Wisconsin. Use the links below to learn more about the various task forces the Wisconsin Women’s Network has had throughout the past three decades.
BUDGET IMPACT TASK FORCE: The Budget Impact Task Force was created by the Wisconsin Women’s Network in 1982, with the sole purpose to “ensure that low income women and their families do not bear the brunt of the reorganization and reduced financing coming to the human service delivery system in Wisconsin.” The task force reviewed annual budgets in Wisconsin and made suggestions and critiques in areas it believed hurt women and children, most especially low-income women and their families. This task force was especially active during the governorship of Tommy Thompson, when the state was actively cutting programs that promoted the safety, health, and well-being of women, children, low-income people and families, the disabled, and the elderly. The task force gave many suggestions to the governor and the budget committee on how to avoid hurting those who are already at the bottom of the ladder. It also criticized President Reagan’s “trickle-down” economics, stating that it placed undue burdens on the poor and that the benefits enjoyed by the upper classes would not ever reach the poor.
CHILD CARE TASK FORCE: The Child Care Task Force was one of the original task forces set up by the Wisconsin Women’s Network in 1979. Throughout the 1980's, the task force worked to push legislation for the betterment of children and their mothers, especially those from lower income families. However, it was not until the 1990's that the task force saw its greatest task: the welfare reform bill entitled Wisconsin Works, or W2, in 1997. The task force was originally against the implementation of W2 because, among other things, it lowered the income eligibility for families with children, it raised co-payments made by parents, and it cut off child care subsidies for children over the age of nine. However, when the bill was adopted into law in 1997, the task force worked to help revise the provisions and address the issues accompanying the law. Apart from W2, the task force focused on and worked with the Children’s Defense Fund, the Compassionate Child Care Bill, and the Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (T.E.A.C.H.). In 2000, the task force helped create the Wisconsin Child Care and Education Coalition.
CHILD SUPPORT AND CUSTODY TASK FORCE: In the early 1980's, Wisconsin saw a great change in the structure of its child support system and child custody laws. With the advent of a no-fault divorce system, the Wisconsin legislature was focused on fixing the child support and custody laws to make them fairer to both parents and children. The Wisconsin Women’s Network responded to this by creating the Child Support and Custody Task Force to support implementation of and reform of joint custody, child-care, and other such laws. The group was dedicated to ensuring that all children in Wisconsin received the care and finances needed to ensure a proper way of living, especially with regard to the non-custodial parent. In particular, the Task Force supported the Governor’s Child Support Initiative, which put stronger enforcements on paying child support to ensure that all children receive the financial resources they need. Also, the Child Support Assurance System was established in 1987 to ensure that parents gave their children financial resources, instead of relying entirely on welfare programs such as AFDC. The Task Force also focused on the issue of child custody, as Wisconsin changed its laws to order parents in certain cases to have joint custody of a child.
DISPLACED HOMEMAKERS TASK FORCE: The Displaced Homemakers Task Force was originally a “mechanism issue”, as set down by the original members of the Wisconsin Women’s Network. This group of women worked to ensure that displaced homemakers, defined as “women who have no job skills or work experience or whose skills or experience are obsolete who are suddenly in a position, through divorce or death of a spouse, of having to support themselves”. The task force worked to enact the Lorman-Panzer bill of 1981, which stated that it “would transfer responsibility for the displaced homemakers program to the state VTAE Board from the Dept. of Health and Social Services and restore the Governor’s vetoed $750,000 to the program”. In 1982, funds became available through the Vocational-Technical Education Board for programs for displaced homemakers.
DOMESTIC ABUSE TASK FORCE: The Domestic Abuse Task Force was the second task force created by the founders of the Wisconsin Women’s Network in 1979. The first chair was Sandee Stone, and its first main goal was to advocate for the passage of Assembly Bill 169, the Domestic Abuse Bill. The bill, as proposed by the Assembly, would require in Wisconsin for the first time:
- Provisions for funding community-based services for battered women
- Utilization of deferred prosecution programs to help abusers
- Police training directly related to family violence
- Expansion of the Crime Victim’s Compensation Bureau to include victims of family violence
- Increased protection for victims of family violence
When the bill was passed in November of 1979, the Task Force worked to help ensure that the provisions of the bill were being carried out and funded properly by state government. Later, the members of the task force created the Wisconsin Coalition Against Woman Abuse, which is now known as the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Abuse, a coalition that works to end domestic violence in Wisconsin today.
EDUCATION EQUITY TASK FORCE: The Education Equity Task Force began in the mid 1980's, as controversial legislation regarding education and budget cuts throughout the state were threatening to severely affect Wisconsin’s school systems. One of their major projects was ensuring the enforcement of the Wisconsin Pupil Non-Discrimination Law, which in 1985 was revised by statute 118.13; this established procedures and enforcement mechanisms for compliance with Wisconsin’s pupil nondiscrimination law. The task force was adamant in ensuring race equity, sex equity, and national origin equity, in addition to equity for the poor, the disabled, and those of differing religious backgrounds. Additionally, the task force was interested in legislation that included (but was not limited to) sexual education, use of public funds and federal funds in education, federal funding for discrimination of women, minorities, the disabled, and the elderly in education, Indian education, Women’s Education Equity Act, Title I, and the creation of magnet schools. The task force is no longer active within the Wisconsin Women’s Network, but many of the members continue to work for educational equity for all in Wisconsin.
EMPLOYMENT EQUITY TASK FORCE: Created by the founders of the Wisconsin Women’s Network in 1979, the Employment Equity Task Force advocated a “Comparable Worth” initiative in Wisconsin. This initiative would ensure “pay equity” for work that required comparable skill, effort and responsibility, and to be paid at roughly the same level. The task force was rewarded with the implementation of Comparable Worth for state government employees, but was dismayed to see that the policies were not strictly enforced and the program was not properly recorded after the first year of implementation. In addition, the task force worked to oppose the Veteran’s Preference legislation because it unfairly discriminated against both men and women, and worked to advocate the Family and Medical Leave Act, adopted in the early 1990's.
EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT TASK FORCE: In 1982, the Wisconsin Women’s Network created the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) Task Force as a response to the initiatives to pass both a federal and a state ERA. The Task Force focused first on the state ERA because it was passed by the Assembly in 1982 and could have been added as a referendum in April of 1983. However, the Task Force was devoted to ensuring that this date would be pushed back because the group believed that more time was needed to determine the effects of a state ERA and hold a successful campaign to inform the public about its effects. In 1983, the federal ERA was voted down by a margin of three states, and the Task Force turned all of its attention to ratifying a state ERA. Because Wisconsin had swiftly ratified the federal ERA, the Task Force believed there was a great chance of creating a state amendment. The group held call-a-thons, speak-outs, and lobbied politicians in order to pass this important piece of legislation. However, the state ERA -much to the surprise, confusion, and dismay of the Task Force- did not pass, and the Task Force was dismantled.
HEALTH CARE TASK FORCE: In 1993, the Wisconsin Women’s Network created the Health Care Task Force, with the following purpose statement: “We recognize that a strong voice must be raised to advocate for the needs of women of all ages and backgrounds for equitable and universal access to health care. The WWN’s Health Care Task Force accepts the challenge to become aware of current health care issues and to take a leadership role in discussion and actions regarding these issues. Our goal is to educate women to recognize their health care needs and empower them to access an equitable health care system.” The task force especially endorsed health care legislation that promoted universality, equality, diversity, and social responsibility. Working towards goals such as lifetime health care coverage, choices in reproductive health care, prevention and treatment of women and children, mental health and substance abuse health coverage, research funding, and universal health care, the task force worked on the WI Health Care Reform Project, the Women’s Cancer Coalition, and with health care facilities across the state on abortion issues, often working in conjunction with the Reproductive Rights Task Force.
LESBIAN RIGHTS TASK FORCE: The Lesbian Rights Task Force within the Wisconsin Women’s Network was created in 1988. Its original goals were to:
- Educate people around the issue of “lesbophobia” through workshops and the generation and distribution of information in feminist advocacy centers, women’s shelters, centers, and crisis lines;
- Provide a WWN liaison to the 1989 Gay March Committee;
- Encourage and develop leadership in the lesbian community via workshops and networking; and
- Establish connections to various “invisible” populations within the larger lesbian community: rural lesbians, working class lesbians, lesbians of color, older lesbians, and differently-abled lesbians
The group supported legislation that advocated for same-sex marriages and outlawed discrimination and hate crimes against the LGBT community.
MARITAL PROPERTY REFORM TASK FORCE: The very first task force and central driving issue for the Wisconsin Women’s Network in 1979, the Marital Property Reform Task Force was set up to push enforcement of the Wisconsin Uniform Marital Property Act (WUMPA). Headed by Anne Arnesan, the task force joined forces with the Governor’s Marital Economic Reform Task Force. WUMPA, when enacted, would reform marital property laws in the areas of wills and estate planning, intestacy, surviving spouses, bank accounts, credit, income taxes and joint tenancy. After the enactment a no-fault law from the Divorce Reform Act of 1978, WUMPA would go one step further in ensuring that women were not unfairly hit by the consequences of divorce or widowing. The Task Force continued to work towards its goal until WUMPA was enacted in 1986, Wisconsin becoming the first state in the nation to create such a law.
SEXUAL ASSAULT TASK FORCE: The Wisconsin Women’s Network created the Sexual Assault Task Force in 1988. The group worked side by side with the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA). Its initial goals included a legislative agenda and an educational agenda. On the legislative front, the Task Force was devoted to monitoring legislation that affected both sexual assault victims and victim service providers, working with the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault to assess current statutes and make recommendations for changes, and helping create a legislative agenda to further help victims of sexual assault and service providers. The Task Force was also dedicated to working with the WCASA to raise public awareness and understanding of the prevalence, effects, treatment, and prevention of sexual assault. The Task Force was grateful for help in the legislature from Rep. Barbara Notestein, who was then a member of the Legislative Council’s Special Committee on Sexual Harassment (and who also received the Network’s Stateswoman of the Year Award in 1993). The Task Force dismantled in the mid 1990s.
SUBSTANCE ABUSE TASK FORCE: The Substance Abuse Task Force (full name Susan Christenson Substance Abuse Task Force) was created within the Wisconsin Women’s Network in the early 1980s. The Task Force was formed in order to address two major issues in Wisconsin: the lack of specific women’s substance abuse programming and the need to address the issue of child care for women in treatment centers. The members decided that they would begin work in the following ways: compiling data and further documenting the extent of the problem; educating the general public; educating public and private industry; developing position and policy statements; monitoring existing legislation and administrative rules and the performance of mandated state agencies; seeking redress through Executive Branch action and/or through the Block Grant Funding and Legislative process; and advocating for sound public policy. The Task Force worked closely with the Wisconsin Women’s Alliance on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse. In 1982, the Task Force held its first conference, entitled “Women Reaching Women”, in an effort to educate the public and garner more support.
WOMEN AND AGING TASK FORCE: The Women and Aging Task Force began in 2001 in an effort to focus on the wide range of women’s issues incurred during aging. The mission of the Task Force was: “Through research, education and advocacy, the WWN’s Women and Aging Task Force works to ensure that older women have access to a range of programs and sources that are affordable and appropriate for their unique needs and which will enable them to live with dignity and in safety.” During 2001 and 2002, the group focused on specific legislation going through the State Senate and Assembly, including SB 133 Health Care For All and the LRB Total Rx Drug Bill. The group also worked to continue funding for the Community Options Program, which allows seniors to remain in their own homes for as long as possible, and the Family Care Program. In 2005, the group began gathering data regarding the realities of the economic situations of elderly people in the state of Wisconsin. In October of that year, the Task Force was asked to join Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) to work on the Wisconsin Elder Economic Security Initiative (WiEESI) to educate Wisconsinites of all ages on the realities of the economics of retirement. While the group is no longer an active Task Force, WiEESI has become a major WWN initiative.
WOMEN AND POVERTY TASK FORCE: In 1991, the Wisconsin Women’s Network created the Economic Status and Security for Women Task Force. A year later, the task force was reorganized and renamed the Women and Poverty Task Force. In the early 1990s, Wisconsin saw a barrage of new legislation restructuring its welfare system, and the Task Force dealt with many of the issues surrounding this restructuring. Throughout its time as a Task Force, the group focused on legislation such as the new Wisconsin Works program (W2), the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) Program, the Parental and Family Responsibility (“Bridefare”) initiative, the new Head Start program, and the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) Program. Besides these specific Wisconsin programs, the Women and Poverty Task Force focused on issues such as job discrimination, equal pay/equal work, sexual harassment, family support issues, childcare, education, minimum wage, and the earned income credit.
WOMEN IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE TASK FORCE: The Women in Criminal Justice Task Force was created by the Wisconsin Women’s Network in 1981 in an effort to “focus on the education and networking of professionals and organizations working with women offenders”. The group was concerned that women in the criminal justice system did not enjoy fair treatment under the law. The Task Force’s basic goals in the beginning were to:
- Monitor legislation and state policies which affect female offenders;
- Monitor and support existing programs for female offenders; and
- Educate the members of the WWN on issues regarding female offenders through its communications.
In 1982, the Task Force held its first conference entitled “The Woman Offender: Out of Sight, Out of Mind?” Throughout the years, the Task Force helped create the Department of Health and Social Services’ Advisory Committee on the Woman Offender and the Special Committee on Women Offenders in the Correctional System in the state legislature. The group focused on issues such as mental health of state prisoners, involuntary termination of parental rights, health care, Taycheedah (the women’s correctional institution), probation and parole, prostitution, halfway houses, and visitation issues.
WOMEN VETERANS TASK FORCE: Women currently make up 15% to 20% of Wisconsin’s active military forces. The personal stories of Wisconsin women returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan are compelling - these women veterans are experiencing difficulties ranging from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to unemployment.
The WWN’s Women Veterans Task Force was the first (and, to our knowledge, the only) Task Force in Wisconsin established to investigate the difficulties our women veterans face when they return home to restart their lives. The volunteer Task Force tapped the experience of women veterans themselves, from Vietnam to Desert Storm/Shield to Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Task Force compiled a first-ever comprehensive list of Wisconsin resources concerning benefits, health care, employment, and ways of connecting with other women vets. This information is included in the Task Force’s brochure “Women in Boots: Marching Home.” The brochure has been distributed statewide to women veterans and their families.
YOUNG WOMEN'S TASK FORCE: The Young Women's Task force served as a group of enthusiastic young women dedicated to translating the pressing concerns of young women and men in Wisconsin into advocacy, action, and empowerment. Based on an agenda developed by 150 young people from across the state, this task force engaged in group discussions with the goal of developing projects to promote social change.
The Young Women’s Task Force (YWTF) emerged from the December 2010 Wisconsin Young Women’s Agenda, a collaborative event of the Wisconsin Women’s Network and the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This advocacy forum brought together 150 women (and a few men!) from across the state to identify their issues of concern and strategies for change on an individual, community and institutional level. The general issues defined in the agenda are:
Sexual Health and Sex Education
Violence Against Women and Sexual Assault
Representations of Women in the Media
Gender and Women’s Studies
Childcare Services/for Single (Teenage) Mothers
The outcomes of this event are available in the publication “2010 Wisconsin Young Women’s Agenda.” The Young Women’s Task Force, which included college students and members of community-based organizations, sought to use the Agenda issues as the basis for developing projects that will contribute to the empowerment of young women and men. The goals was to continue discussion and identification of concerns and strategies for action to create social change for young people across Wisconsin and beyond.
2010-2011 YWTF Members
Melissa Speener (vice-chair)
Minjon Tholen (chair)