Our History and Our Future
The Governor's Commission for Women was created following President John F. Kennedy's establishment of the United States Commission on the Status of Women in 1961; in 1967, Governor John Connally established the Texas Commission on the Status of Women, a group charged with exploring ways for women to continue being wives and mothers while also contributing to the world around them. But with no permanent funding or staff, the commission disbanded two years later when Connally left office.
A string of similar groups were established by subsequent governors and likewise disbanded: the Texas Status of Women Commission in 1970 by Governor Preston Smith; the Texas Commission on the Status of Women in 1977 by Governor Dolph Briscoe; the Governor's Task Force on Equal Opportunities for Women and Minorities in 1978 by Governor William Clements. These entities left some lasting legacies, such as a successful first statewide women's conference; a comprehensive report on the status of Texas women in the areas of home and community, education, employment practices and legal treatment; and a family violence manual. But with a recurring lack of financial and staff support, along with some severe divisiveness over the Equal Rights Amendment, the groups themselves did not last.
In 1983, Governor Mark White established the Governor's Commission for Women essentially as it exists today. The first Commission had a two-person staff and a substantial biennial budget allowing it to achieve many important goals, including sponsorship of conferences and commemorations for women, as well as the establishment of the State Agency Liaison Group, which later became the State Agency Council. Notably, the Commission also launched the Texas Women's Hall of Fame in 1984. When Governor Clements returned to office in 1987, his first executive order was the continuation of the Commission. Every Texas governor since then - Ann Richards, George W. Bush, Rick Perry, and Greg Abbott - has followed suit, and the Commission has flourished. While its focus shifts with each biennial turnover of members - from economic development to substance abuse, literacy to legislation affecting women - today, the Governor's Commission for Women has established itself as a resource and champion for women throughout Texas and continues to make strides despite a reduced staff and budget.
Under Governor Abbott, the Women’s Commission was moved within the Office of the Governor's Economic Development & Tourism Division. Although our principal function is to support programs and activities that empower and enable women business owners to gain access to the tools, education, resources, and networking opportunities needed to help women start, grow, and expand businesses; the Commission also continues to identify topics and trends that significantly affect the women of Texas.
With a strong belief in giving back to our communities and increasing stakeholder expectations to focus on philanthropy and volunteerism, the Commission works collaboratively with the Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott’s Texanthropy and Network of Nurture initiatives as well as non-profits, businesses, and other government agencies to provide resources that deliver both economic and social benefits to all Texans.
Removing Barriers and Developing Solutions
The Governor outlines the initiatives and policy areas The Commission is to focus on for the year. The Commission then facilitates research and engages in partnerships in order to make informed policy recommendations to the Governor regarding these issues in an annual report.
The reality is that women face certain barriers in everyday life that can hinder their economic and societal prosperity. The Women’s Commission exists to promote female advancement within Texas society, in hopes that these barriers will eventually be eliminated.