Hamilton County Commission on Women & Girls: A Year in Review

“The whole point is to promote women and girls in this community,” Driehaus said. “We’re letting the women and girls in the community define what the issues are and then form a strategy to address what’s wrong.”

Sharon Coolidge, Cincinnati Enquirer

In the 1990s, when Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus served on the Cincinnati Recreation Committee, her daughter was in grade school and played softball.

Only there were no fields for the softball teams – the girl’s teams – available.

Turns out boys baseball teams reserved all the fields, even ones they didn’t use, just in case they needed them. Driehaus explained to recreation department leaders that unintentionally shut girls out.

Driehaus solved that problem and today, as only the second-ever female Hamilton County Commissioner, she is still advocating for women and girls.

Last year, she spurred the creation of the Hamilton County Commission on Women and Girls, which is fresh off its first set of recommendations.

“The whole point is to promote women and girls in this community,” Driehaus said. “We’re letting the women and girls in the community define what the issues are and then form a strategy to address what’s wrong.”

The Women and Girls commission’s ultimate goal is to achieve pay equity for women and to promote women into leadership positions.

The commission, which was started with unanimous support from the Board of Commissioners, kicked off this year with 30 members, including nine girls between the ages of 10 and 17.

The first year of work yielded eight recommendations, including:

  • Increasing the number of women on county boards
  • Incentivizing companies to eliminate pay disparities
  • Creating a school curriculum for young men about how to treat women
  • Developing a multi-age mentoring alliance

It’s not as easy as waving a magic wand, especially since much of the fixes are out of the county’s control. But there is progress, Driehaus said. Out of the commission, there is a movement to make county boards reflect the community, and the county has ended the practice of asking women applying for jobs what their previous pay was.

That, Driehaus said, perpetuates inequitable pay.

The City of Columbus has a similar commission called the Columbus Women’s Commission, started in 2016. Out of it has come, The Columbus Commitment: Achieving Pay Equity, a plan that calls on businesses to become educated about pay inequity and work to end gender and race-based disparity. So far more than 175 employersin Central Ohio have signed the pledge.

Driehaus praised that program, but said that before starting a pledge like that here, she’s looking at pay equity in county government.

“The data shows women in Hamilton County are still facing tremendous challenges in achieving pay equity, especially for women of color and low-income earners,” says Katy Crossen, Women and Girls commissioner and co-chair of the Economic and Pay Equity subcommittee. “We know women and girls in our community won’t experience a windfall overnight, but this inaugural year was about planting seeds that will lead to real change. Women deserve more, and the Commission is determined to implement strategies that will achieve powerful results.”

Driehaus said her proudest moment came when she heard Claire Wagner, a 12-year-old girl who is a commission member, respond to the comment, “Maybe, you could be a county commissioner someday.”

Claire answered, “That would be fine. But I think I would rather be president of the United States.”

“This is why we’re doing this,” Driehaus said.

The Hamilton County Commission on Women and Girls is accepting applications for members through Monday, Nov. 26. Apply here: https://bit.ly/2AaXH5f

Read the full report: https://bit.ly/2A9RLJO

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Charles “Chip” Gerhardt

President & CEO

Chip has made government affairs, economic development, and issue advocacy his life’s work. He’s worked for decades in the public and private sectors, and advocated at the local, state, and federal levels of government. In 2007, he used that experience to found Government Strategies Group, a full-service government relations firm. At GSG, he works directly with clients, helping them navigate the complicated intersection of politics, public policy, and business.

In his many years in public policy, Chip has been involved in significant policies including; creation of tax increment financing districts, the Clean Ohio program, Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation, and most importantly, the passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. He has also been at the forefront of some of the biggest developments in greater Cincinnati, including the Horseshoe (now Hard Rock) Casino, TQL Stadium for FC Cincinnati, parking garage structures at The Banks, and the redevelopment of the @580 building. Rarely is there a public policy endeavor in Cincinnati that does not involve GSG.

Chip received his B.B.A in Marketing from the University of Notre Dame and his Juris Doctor from the St. Louis University School of Law. He lives in Anderson Township with his wife Jane. Son Charlie is a local chef and children Hank and Anne have completed their education and started lives of their own.

Focus areas:

  • State and local government relations
  • Economic development
  • Issue advocacy

Driven by:

  • A lifelong interest in the political system has driven Chip to a career in public policy and politics. As a parent of three, one with down syndrome, has compelled him to promote public policies designed to help others. Whether it is enabling financial independence for people with disabilities, advancing funding for housing families facing homelessness, or assisting with economic development projects, Chip involves himself in things that make a positive difference. 

In the community:

  • Hamilton County Board of Elections member
  • Current Board Member for Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, People Working Cooperatively, Corporation for Findlay Market, goVibrant, and the African American Chamber of Commerce
  • Former Chairman of the Board for the National Down Syndrome Society
  • Former board member of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, the Cincinnati Museum Center, the Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority, the Clermont County Chamber of Commerce, and the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati