Women's Commission enters third year-- Group continues to address issues facing Oakland County women

By Christine L. Mobley

Legal News

The Women's Commission for Oakland County (WCOC) is embarking on its third year.

The WCOC was created by the Oakland County Board of Commissioners and has been charged with assessing the needs and status of women in Oakland County and reporting those findings to the board.

The WCOC is comprised of 25 commissioners with each representing one of the 25 districts within the county. WCOC commissioners are appointed by the Oakland County commissioner representing their particular district.

Oakland County Commissioners Marcia Gershenson and Christine Long serve as ex-officio members of the WCOC.

In its first year, the commission identified four issues facing women in Oakland County and formed four corresponding committees to address those issues. The committees are: Economic Autonomy; Health and Wellness; Women Against Violence; and Leadership.

"We are an outreach group, basically, of the elected county commissioners in Oakland County," Laurie Renchik, WCOC chair, explained. "Our outreach is really inclusive of all women in Oakland County.

"We're a non-partisan group all brought together for the same reason and really that is we are really passionate about surveying the needs of women in Oakland County and looking for ways to reach them, empower them and then have their voice work in unison with the elected officials."

According to Renchik, it's not that the WCOC doesn't tackle political issues, rather they are learning not to mix personal politics into issues that they're confronting while taking full-advantage of each of the commissioners' contacts and individual experiences.

"This year, what we're really looking forward to doing is putting policies and procedures in place to supplement the bylaws because we have all these talented, energized women who want to do all these great things and touch the different groups in the community," Renchik continued.

Renchik also noted that broadening communications between the 25 commissioners would be helpful, mentioning a Linked-in-type of social networking to gain a greater understanding and a broader perspective of each of the four committees.

Attorney Ann Erickson-Gault, currently the only attorney who serves on the WCOC, noted the goals of the legal community-at-large coincide with that of the commission.

"The Women's Commission is concerned about many issues that the legal community are concerned about as well and keenly aware of such as combatting violence - especially violence against women; combatting poverty; promoting justice - these are similar goals share by the legal community.

"Myself personally - and I would highly recommend it to any woman lawyer who has the opportunity to serve on the commission - it's a great place to learn leadership skills," Erickson-Gault continued. "It is a group of 25 women from various backgrounds, interests and perspectives on social issues and you really need to learn to work with people of different backgrounds. That's a great skill to learn for any woman lawyer hoping to advance herself in her profession - maybe somebody who's looking to seek public office."

Erickson-Gault has served on the commission since it was created.

"When the commission was first founded it was the labor of love of one person in particular - Oakland County Commissioner Marcia Gershenson. She worked tirelessly to make sure the commission was created.

"I've seen that the existence and work of the commission has seemed to have changed the minds of the commissioners who maybe weren't excited about it to begin with, because they're appointing some fabulous women to serve from all ends of the social, economic, and political spectrum.

"That says to me that the Oakland County Board of Commissioners as a whole has really seen the usefulness of it."

Gershenson says the WCOC has learned a lot since its inception and plans to move forward with what they've learned and are open to learning more.

"Every meeting is open to the public and we encourage women and men to attend," Gershenson said. "Our mission is to assess the needs of women and families in Oakland County, so if there's a need you feel is really worth us working on, we'd love to invite you to come join us."

Meetings are open to the public and are held in the Board of Commissioners Auditorium, 1200 N. Telegraph Road, in Pontiac.

The next Women's Commission meeting will be on Thursday, March 25, from 4 to 6 p.m. WCOC meetings are posted through the Board of Commissioners Web site at www.oakgov.com/boc.

Published: Mon, Mar 1, 2010

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