Tennessee Economic Council on Women closes

Members of the Tennessee Economic Council on Women and the Women's Economic Council Foundation pose for one last picture before the Economic Council ends on June 30, 2016.

Members of the Tennessee Economic Council on Women and the Women’s Economic Council Foundation pose for one last picture before the Economic Council ends on June 30, 2016.

The Tennessee Economic Council on Women will cease to exist as of June 30, 2016. The state agency was Sunset by the Senate Government Operations Committee during the 109th Session of the Tennessee General Assembly this Spring. The Economic Council had its final meeting on Tuesday, June 7, 2016.

“The organization will no longer exist because of the Sunset process, not because of funding,” said Rep. Karen Camper, Chair of the Economic Council. “The Economic Council was in the Governor’s proposed budget, and the work of the staff was extraordinary. However, there were not enough votes to continue the agency.”

The nine -member Senate Government Operations Committee ended the organization with four yes votes and two no votes, with two members abstaining, and one absent. Five votes, a majority of the committee, were needed for the bill to move forward, presumably to the full Senate.

“I am still in a state of disbelief,” said Phyllis Qualls-Brooks, executive director of the Economic Council. “I knew we were going to have a great challenge, but I did not really expect we would be Sunset.”

The 18-year-old agency had a statewide board of 21 members, appointed by the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House, the Legislative Black Caucus and Women’s Caucus, and drew frequently from the higher education community. Its mission was to perform research, provide advocacy, and share its findings with the Governor, Legislature, and Tennesseans statewide. It was also specifically called on to review workforce training programs and recommend qualified women for appointment to state boards & commissions.

“This organization is important to me because it provides a wide base of assistance for women, children, and entire families,” said Maleia Evans. “All of the studies, ranging from measuring the economic impact of women-owned businesses, the status of women in Tennessee and the economic impact of violence against women, provide significant information for continued growth and strength in our state.”

The work of the group has been praised locally, nationally, and internationally. Its 2013 report on the Economic Impact of Violence Against Women, for example, has been added in the United Nations’ online Knowledge Gateway for women’s empowerment, and is one of only 700 studies included globally. While the future of the TECW’s work remains uncertain, its members, staff, and partners across Tennessee, are stepping forward to salvage what they can and to find new homes for some of the Council’s ongoing projects.

“I applaud Dr. Qualls-Brooks for her intestinal fortitude during this Sunset process and staying with the Council until the last day. That speaks volumes of her character,” said Yvonne Wood, former chair of the TECW.

“This organization had 18 years of extraordinary work,” said Qualls-Brooks. “We dared greatly.” For more information, contact Phyllis Qualls-Brooks, Executive Director, at Phyllis.qualls-brooks@tn.gov or (615) 253-4264.