Online Chat with Dee Mayberry

March 18, 2007

Editor's note: On Tuesday, March 13, at 1:30 p.m., The Herald-Mail held an online chat with Dee Mayberry, the Western Maryland representative of the Maryland Commission for Women. An edited version of that chat transcript follows.

Currently no other chats are scheduled. If you would like to make suggestions for guests or topics, send your questions and suggestions to

Moderator: You are the Western Maryland representative for the Maryland Commission for Women. Is this like a regional affiliate of the National Organization for Women?

Dee Mayberry: No it is not. Indeed, there is absolutely no connection between the two. It may also be added that the Maryland Commission for Women currently is totally preoccupied with issues of importance to Maryland women. Of interest is the fact that we are a statutory commission regulated under the statutes of the state of Maryland.


Visitor: We have local commissions for women in various counties in Maryland. How does the Maryland Commission relate to the local commissions?

Mayberry: The local commissions are definitely not satellites of the Maryland Commission. The MCW (Maryland Commission for Women) is statewide. Local commissions have far more flexibility in what they are permitted to do, can be partisan if they wish and often lobby. We are strictly nonpartisan and cannot lobby. We do, however, assist local commissions, nonprofits and other organizations if they request our help. We are often asked to partner with various outside groups to help with their initiatives. We try to help and interact with all groups of any party that has interests involving women through in an assortment of MCW committees.

Moderator: The MCW Web site says the group "advises government, advances solutions and serves as a statewide resource to expand social, political and economic opportunities for all women." To focus on just one of those areas, what advice has the commission given government (at any level) this year and how was it received?

Mayberry: For example, one committee currently is very hard at work on its annual Hall of Fame event (on March 14) honoring women of achievement within the state, most recently including Col. Annette Deener from Sharpsburg, chief of staff of the Maryland National Guard.

Another committee is preparing to identify honorees among very young women of academic, community service and leadership as part of its Women of Tomorrow event.

The commission as a whole recognizes and holds events with women legislators and other ladies of interest in the state. My committee (the Legislation Policy Committee) spends its time outside of the 90-day session researching and trying to understand a variety of issues of concern to women.

In the current session, we are highly focused on three basic initiatives with sub-categories.

1. The first is "abuse," which covers the entire age spectrum - from child abuse to domestic violence, as well as abuse of the elderly.

2. The second is women's health. MCW has selected for particular attention post-partum depression, which affects 85 percent of women following childbirth. And nearly a year ago, we began research on heart disease in women. Now we're speaking out about the coronary disorders among women, including the fact that it is arguably the No. 1 killer of women.

3. Our third major initiative concerns the women of "the sandwich generation." These women are struggling to manage the needs and costs of both their children and their own elderly parents.

Moderator: In 2007, are women in Maryland really denied economic opportunities? If so, can you give us an example?

Mayberry: I'll begin by questioning the word "denied." I have a hard time believing that any competent individual would be turned away because of gender. If we can remove the word "denied" from the question, and substitute the word "opportunity" then we have some work to do.

1. MCW wants to encourage young women to consider, for example, information technology - a rapidly-growing field - as a career choice. There are additional so-called "nontraditional" fields, in which women can perform very effectively. MCW is assisting in advising and encouraging women to look at these. MCW also is, and has been for years, very concerned about the issue of equal pay for equal work. In most areas of this society, we still have not yet achieved that goal. The MCW will continue to push on that.

Moderator: Does MCW play any role in advocating the passage of legislation in the Maryland General Assembly?

Mayberry: Yes we do. As a matter of fact, we are involving ourselves currently in perhaps a dozen pieces of legislation in this session that impact strongly on women and children. I highlight a state Senate bill that has been cross-filed in the Maryland House of Delegates that has to do with child sexual predators.

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