Empowering women in Burlington County

The newly revitalized Burlington County Women’s Advisory Council is working to give women the tools they need to succeed.

Freeholder Director Kate Gibbs and Deputy Director Linda Hughes take the responsibility of being the only county in the state with women serving as director and deputy director of the Freeholder Board seriously. Gibbs said empowering women is of the utmost importance to the pair, and that philosophy guided them when they set out to reinvigorate and reform the Burlington County Women’s Advisory Council.

“We have a unique opportunity to really make a difference in the lives of the women of Burlington County,” Gibbs said.

Burlington County officials announced their efforts to modernize the council in late March. Gibbs said the council consists of 20 women of various backgrounds and ages who lend their voices to issues impacting women in Burlington County.

The council was created in 1987 and was subsequently “elevated” in 2004 when it was renamed the Burlington County Advisory Council on Women to join the National Advisory Council on Women.

Since the renaming in 2004, the council has not seen many changes and has stagnated in recent years, Gibbs said. For that reason, Gibbs thought it was time for the council to change with times. She said she found the term “council on women” to be a bit dated and patronizing, so she and Hughes agreed the group should be renamed the Burlington County Women’s Advisory Council.

Gibbs and Hughes set out to fill the 20 council seats with a diverse group of women. She said they wanted women who were “doers,” and so they reached out to their networks in Burlington County to find women who specialize in a variety of areas including business, public health and education. She said the group consists of women of different races, ages and educational backgrounds.

Now that the group has been assembled, the first steps are to modernize and evaluate the council’s mission and activities, Gibbs said. In addition to updating some of the council’s “archaic” bylaws, the group is getting to work on women-focused-initiatives.

Gibbs said the council is going to review the county’s existing programs and services to see what is working and how they can better meet the needs of the county’s female residents. The council will also gather data by conducting a county-wide women’s survey.

Additionally, the group is working on utilizing social media to create an online resource center for women with information about the county’s services and programs. The council is in the process of organizing a mentoring event series for women starting their careers.

“Burlington County thrives when women have the tools they need to succeed,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs said she and Hughes are actively working to remove impediments to women in the workplace with initiatives such as passing resolutions on equal pay and by providing mobile nursing pods in county buildings for nursing mothers.

“My main concern is making sure that women have the resources and the tools they need to be successful,” Gibbs said.

For more information on the Burlington County Women’s Advisory Council, visit http://www.co.burlington.nj.us.