Attorney General Ellison selects advocates, researchers, legislators to serve on Women’s Economic Security Task Force

Names Lt. Gov. Flanagan and others as ad hoc members

January 26, 2021 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today announced that he has selected the 15 voting members of the Advisory Task Force on Expanding the Economic Security of Women. They include advocates, researchers, Minnesotans with an interest in the topic, a legislator from each house and each party, and a representative from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.  

Attorney General Ellison also announced that he has named several ad hoc members of the task force: Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero, Minnesota Solicitor General Liz Kramer, and Attorney General Ellison’s Chief of Staff Donna Cassutt. Ms. Cassutt will serve as a co-chair of the task force along with another co-chair to be selected by task force members.  

Attorney General Ellison has charged the task force with gathering in the best thinking in order to understand the multiple barriers women face in the economy and come up with a diverse set of strategies to create a more inclusive economy.  

“Getting to the root of the causes for women’s economic insecurity and comprehensive solutions for turning that it into security, equity, and opportunity requires a broad range of experience and perspective. I’m grateful to the members who have stepped up to contribute, including Lt. Governor Flanagan, and to everyone who applied. We will need everyone’s best thinking, effort, and good will to turn Minnesota into the most prosperous and economically secure state for women.” 

“It’s my honor to serve as an ad hoc member of the Advisory Task Force on Expanding the Economic Security of Women,” said Lieutenant Governor Flanagan. “As an advocate for children and families, a daughter raised by a single mom, and a mom of a young girl myself, I have seen firsthand the way that women are the backbone of our families and our economy. Achieving economic security and parity for women lifts up all Minnesotans.” 

The Task Force will hold its first monthly meeting on February 4, 2021 from 5:00–7:30 p.m. via Zoom. The task force will produce a report within nine months, before the start of the 2022 legislative session, and will continue its work for up to two years. All meetings, whether virtual or in-person, will be open to media and the public. Policy Research Associate Sadaf Rahmani of Attorney General Ellison’s office will serve as the staff lead for the task force. 

The members of the task force were chosen from among 93 people who applied through the Secretary of State’s Open Appointment process.  

Voting members of the task force

Barbara Battiste is the former Director of the Minnesota Legislative Office on the Economic Status of Women. In that position, she advised legislators on women’s economic issues and provided ideas and background research for new legislation. Her prior professional experience includes public policy and career services work for WomenVenture, a Minnesota nonprofit that helps women become successful business owners, and legislative affairs work for the Pay Equity Coalition of Minnesota, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting Minnesota’s state and local government pay-equity laws. 

Christina Ewig is Professor of Public Affairs and Faculty Director of the Center on Women, Gender, and Public Policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. As Center Director, Dr. Ewig works to stimulate research, teaching, and public engagement on gender and its intersections with other forms of inequality. Ewig leads the Humphrey School’s academic programming on gender and public policy, including teaching graduate courses on gender, intersectionality, and public policy. She also leads the Center’s research portfolio, which is centered on finding evidence-based policy solutions to gender-based disparities, with specific expertise on Minnesota.  

Betty Folliard is the co-owner of Strategy Partners, a business and political consulting firm founded in 1999. Betty has served on various elected positions including in the Minnesota House Representative for six years. She also founded THE SALON, an organization for Minnesota women elected higher officials. She serves as president of the Women Leadership Coalition: in this role she recently recruited and led a Minnesota delegation of fifty women and a few good men to the PDA/ERA Day of Action on Capitol Hill and We Are Woman #Rally4Equality2014 at the United States Capitol.  

Cheniqua Johnson is the Relationship Manager at Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation. She has seven years of prior experience in community engagement, political organizing, and local, state and federal government. Cheniqua received her bachelor’s in family social science from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities as a first-generation, TRIO, college graduate and Marquette University Les Aspin Center, Keith E. Sherin Global Scholar. Cheniqua was born and raised in Worthington, Minnesota, where she currently resides with her family and most recently served as the Honorary City Council member. 

Nancy Jost has been the Director of Early Childhood at West Central Initiative in Fergus Falls for the past 17 years. Nancy is a champion for advocating the best possible start for children toward a healthy life of learning, achieving, and succeeding. Through those Early Childhood Initiative efforts, Nancy helps lead 10 advocates, one from each county of West Central Initiative’s service area and the White Earth Nation. When the legislature is in session, Nancy can be found testifying on behalf of the state’s early-childhood education and childcare efforts.  

Dr. Brittany Lewis is a well-respected community engaged qualitative scholar, thought leader, author, and national speaker known for bringing those most often locked out of local decision-making processes to the action research table, for close to 10 years. Dr. Lewis is the Founder and CEO of Research in Action, an urban research, strategy, and engagement firm, and is currently a Senior Research Associate at the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota. Formerly, Dr. Lewis was a Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank Scholar in Residence and Visiting Assistant Professor at Macalester College in Political Science and American Studies. 

Batala McFarlane is the Publisher of Insight News, where she is responsible for the overall operations of the publication. She leads a team of talented change agents who are committed to Insight’s core values and mission, which is to inform, to instruct and to inspire. Insight News is Minnesota’s most widely circulated ethnically focused newspaper, has been in publication for nearly 40 years, and is distributed widely throughout Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and surrounding suburbs.  

Lulete Mola is the Vice President of Community Impact at the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, where she leads the implementation and management of the Foundation’s grant-making, evaluation, leadership, and field-building programs that enable large-scale systems change. In this role, she also leads the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota, a $10-million public-private partnership to shift systems and improve the lives of young women of color and American Indian young women in Minnesota and across the United States. Ms. Mola is devoted to engaging in and supporting community organizing, movement building, and work to advance women’s leadership.  

Kate Perushek is Director of Governmental Relations, Legislative Affairs, and Policy Initiatives on Women, Children, and Climate at the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. The agency is responsible for outreach, compliance, and enforcement of several provisions of the Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA). Ms. Perushek helped develop and pass WESA in 2014 when she was Legislative Director for the House DFL Caucus. After serving at the Minnesota House of Representatives for nine years, Kate was a policy advisor to Governor Mark Dayton. She has a keen interest in workplace protections for women and improving their economic security. Kate has her master’s degree in public policy and social work from the University of Chicago. 

Erin Maye Quade is the Advocacy Director at Gender Justice, where she works to advance gender justice through public education, legislative outreach, strategic partnerships, and coalition-building. Erin is a former Minnesota State Representative who was first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2016. There, she quickly established herself as a candid and fierce advocate for Minnesotans championing paid family leave; expanding access to affordable child care; ending childhood hunger; eliminating gun violence; and investing in treatment for mental-health and substance-abuse issues.  

Sen. David Senjem (R) represents Senate District 25, which includes parts of Dodge and Olmsted counties. Sen. Senjem has been in office since 2003 and is the Chair of the Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy committee. 

Connie Smallman is a seasoned journey worker Operating Engineer. She is the co-founder and co-chair of the Operating Engineer Local 49 Women’s Group, the first Women’s Group in the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). She has represented Local 49 at the international level educating hundreds of fellow female operators on how to start their own women’s group at a local level. She is currently a delegate to the Minneapolis Building & Construction Trades Council.  

Sayda Sadia Tarannum is the co-founder and current Chair of the Executive Board of the NorthWest Islamic Community Center (NWICC). Under her leadership, the NWICC became the first mosque to join Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative, a collaborative congregation committed to a theory of change that includes housing solutions and short and long-term policy changes around homelessness. Ms. Tarannum brought Beacon’s Families Moving Forward program to the Muslim community, by helping NWICC host a group of families experiencing homelessness for a week. She is also an Executive Board Member at CAIR-MN. During the day Sadia works as a Senior Product Manager at Surescripts.  

Alene Tchourumoff is the Senior Vice President of Community Development and Engagement at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, where she leads the Bank’s engagement with communities throughout the Ninth District to promote economic opportunity for low- and moderate-income people and those living in Indian Country. Prior to joining the Bank, Alene served as chair of Minnesota’s Metropolitan Council, where she built strong partnerships with local governments and community groups to advance transit, housing, and other critical infrastructure. Previously, she worked extensively in China and Southeast Asia on public policy and public health initiatives — including combating HIV/AIDS in China and Vietnam. Alene was named 2020 Women in Business honoree by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal. 

Rep. Samantha Vang (D) represents House District 40B, which includes the cities of Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park. Rep. Vang is the current chair of the Legislature’s People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus, and is the vice chair of the Agriculture Finance and Policy, Judiciary Finance and Civil Law, and Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy committees.  

State of women’s economic security and scope of the task force

In Minnesota, women continue to face significant barriers to achieving their full potential in the economy.  

Members of the Task Force will have three charges:  

  1. Identify the barriers that prevent gender equity in the workplace and limit women's equal participation in the economy, including: gendered-based pricing (the “Pink Tax”) in consumer goods and services, barriers that fall disproportionately on women of color and immigrant women, and the disproportionate economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on women;  
  2. Explore best practices to advance the economy security of women; and  
  3. Develop a comprehensive set of recommendations that protect and support women's economic security in Minnesota.