Virtual Conversation | 2021 Re-Wire Policy Conference, Dec 15, 2021 Register

Q&A with Rep. Mary Dye on the Washington State Women’s Commission

Representative Mary Dye currently serves on the House Appropriations Committee, the Capital Budget Committee, and the Environment Committee. This month, Governor Inslee also appointed her to serve on the newly created Washington State Women’s Commission. Rep. Dye recently spoke with The Wire about the unique perspective she plans to bring to the commission.

Emily Boerger: In general, what are the primary goals of the Washington State Women’s Commission?

Representative Mary Dye: “Even after all of the work that’s been done on behalf of women and women’s issues, there’s still some underrepresentation in government and in business and the commission’s role is to deal with some of those issues. [Another goal is] to assure that women are being treated fairly in the work place and that they have access to the services that are available for them.

We want to assist women, especially in populations that are particularly affected – women of color or women under socioeconomic factors that would create barriers for them – to be successful in the work place or in an elected office. So, it’s just advocating for the removal of legal or social barriers that have kept women less represented.”

EB: This commission is brand new (HB 2759). Why is important that we have this commission, especially now?

MD: “I think that we have a lot of people that were elected in the last election that feel strongly about these issues and they really elevated the issues in the legislature and fought for them. In the intent section of the bill it talks about women being disenfranchised – so we had a lot of discussions about these kinds of issues. We were going through the #metoo movement and issues of harassment in the workplace and I think those issues were really high on the minds of the legislators, especially the women legislators that were in office this session.”

EB: As a legislator from a rural community, what perspective do you bring to the commission?

MD: “Obviously I come from a much more traditional perspective and so I am really proud that the governor decided to allow a broader and more diverse set of voices regarding women’s issues. Being more traditional and from a rural community I see the needs of women a little differently than the makers of the law. But I think it’s an important voice to be heard. Living in, and having always lived in, very rural and small communities, I think the issues for women in these communities is significantly different.

I really believe that women’s lives are multifaceted. I think that’s one thing that we don’t take into account when we deal with women’s issues. It’s not just about success on you career path, but it’s also about success in our homes, success in our marriages, and success with our families. I think that’s the most important piece that’s missing in the conversation.”

EB: What are some of your individual priorities?

MD: “Having opportunities for economic growth and development in these small communities is a really big issue right now because all of the state policies seem to constrict opportunities. We’re seeing small towns drying up and that means that there’s a lot more stress on families.  There’s not many opportunities for the men in the families or the women in the families.”

I’m there to strengthen marriages, to strengthen families, and to strengthen economic opportunities for families. That’s why I’m there and that’s a lot different than what I think they’re looking at.”

EB: What specific state policies are impacting economic opportunities?

MD: “Certainly the regulations on daycare and the regulations and costs of health care. When we talk about access to quality daycare, the regulations have literally stripped child care services out of these small communities. I think that also health care, again the way the state has managed the Affordable Care Act, has literally driven the health care system in rural Washington into near bankruptcy. We’re losing all of our primary care providers out of these rural communities and it’s almost impossible to keep the doors open.

I would love to be able to have a rural, traditional woman to advocate for rural America because it is about teamwork, it’s about having opportunity, and it’s about a business climate that allows us to be successful and to be able to have stable homes. And it’s that instability and uncertainty that’s creating a lot of strife in our rural communities. [It’s creating] a lot of discouragement and lack of hope and I really want to advocate for these women.”

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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