Shannon Ginther is on a mission. If she's successful, Columbus will enjoy a reputation as a city where women are valued equally to men.
Shannon Ginther is on a mission. If she's successful, Columbus will enjoy a reputation as a city where women are valued equally to men and can obtain the jobs, pay, housing, education, healthcare and nutrition they need to raise their families and reach their own potential.
Ultimately, Ginther hopes her work will long exceed whatever tenure her husband, Andrew, spends as the city's mayor.
"It will become part of the city's DNA. My goal is to make it part of who we are," Ginther says.
Columbus' first lady is preparing to chair the Columbus Women's Commission, a public-private initiative the mayor announced in his first State of the City address in February. Applications are being accepted through Oct. 21 online at columbus.gov/womenscommission. The mayor will select at least 13 commissioners in consultation with his wife. One- and two-year terms will begin in January.
Even before the commission officially gets underway, Ginther is convening private roundtable discussions by invitation to start identifying quick wins and long-term objectives. The community will be invited to join those conversations after the preliminary discussions help create some structure, she says.
Ginther cites Celebrate One, an effort launched in 2014 to reduce infant mortality in Franklin County, as a model for improving the economic well-being of women in Columbus. Partners from business and nonprofits will be engaged, she says.
"This is not to overtake any work anyone has going on but to use the commission to highlight and knit together where things may be missing," Ginther says. For example, the Women's Fund of Central Ohio's work to disrupt gender bias that contributes to inequality is consistent with the commission's aims, Ginther says. The commission will also be eyeing but not duplicating other local efforts to increase affordable housing and prevent family homelessness.
New data from the Women's Fund shows there is plenty of room for improvement. Its recent report, the Pervasive Power of Gender Norms, shows women in the Columbus metro area earn 74 percent of males' income and 27 percent of female heads of household are deemed economically insecure.