Thank God it’s Friday: In the company of women edition

Thank god it's FridayEarlier this year, Alaska state Sen. Lesil McGuire, who is also running for lieutenant governor, released a startling study that she had commissioned about the status of women in Alaska. Among other findings, the review found that when both full and part time work is included, Alaska woman make 67 cents on the dollar for each dollar a man earns. Nearly 56 percent of unmarried men with children under the age of 18 own their own home in Alaska. For a single mother, that rate drops to 42 percent. Nearly 62 percent of all adults with children in a shelter were women.

McGuire is planning a conference, scheduled in October, about the economic status of women in Alaska. The list is growing, but the speakers thus far include First Lady Sandy Parnell, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and President of BP Alaska. Janet Weiss.

On Thursday, Sen. Mark Begich joined a group of about 20 women, including representatives from Planned Parenthood, to speak about some of the same issues, and federal laws that he’s pushed and continues to push. (Read more about those here). Begich’s ability to connect in small groups is one of his major strengths. And he’s particularly good with women and comfortable discussing women’s issues.

It’s too cynical for even this cynical writer to say that politics is the sole driver in both McGuire’s and Begich’s focuses on women’s issues. There are real problems here that anybody, public official or not, should be concerned about. And anybody with the ability to do something about it should.

But politics can’t be too far away from either of their minds.

McGuire’s report may point to a sad reality for many women in Alaska. But another reality is that they vote in greater numbers than do men. About 257,000 men were registered to vote in Alaska’s 2012 general election. Only 147,588 voted. In that same election, about 248,000 women were registered to vote and 152,075 did so.

Those are numbers to pay attention to. They could easily make or break a candidate.

Below are some random facts amassed about women in Alaska, facts that any politician worth his or her spit should know on the tops of their heads come election time:

  • According to the 2010 census data, women make up 48.3 percent of Alaska’s population.
  • Two women have won the Iditarod: Libby Riddles was the first and Susan Butcher was the second, who went on to win it four times.
  • Three women have won statewide office: Lt Governor Fran Ulmer, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, and Gov. Sarah Palin.
  • Two women have served as Alaska Speaker of the House of Representatives: Ramona Barnes and Gail Phillips.
  • Two Three women have served as the president of the Alaska Senate: Jan Faiks, Drue Pearce and Lyda Green.
  • Out of fourteen total, there are five women in Parnell’s cabinet. They are at Commerce, Administration, Labor, Fish and Game, and one is the Acting Commissioner of Revenue.
  • There are 17 women currently serving in the Alaska Legislature: 13 female members of the House of Representatives and four senators.
  • There are four major publically traded companies based in Alaska with a total of 38 board members. Of these board members only seven are women.
  • GCI recently added one woman to its board of nine. ACS’ sole female on a board of seven is Margie Brown. Northrim Bank’s sole female on the board of 12 is Irene Sparks Rowan. First National Bank has nine members, four of whom are women: Betsy Lawer, Margy Johnson, Jane Klopfer, and Lucy Mahan. Not to take anything away from them, but Lawer is the president of the bank and she Klopfer and Mahan are the chairman’s daughters.
  • Klondike Kate, the most famous female performer during the gold rush days in the late 1800s, fell in love with Alexander Pantages. In 1902, the two left Dawson to set up their own theater company in the Pacific Northwest. While in the lower 48, Kate discovered that Pantages was already married and that he had been stealing all of the money she made from her activities in the greatland. Good on her that she never forgave him.
  • In 1927, Marvel Crosson was the first female pilot to ever get a license in Alaska. In 1929 she set a new altitude record for women. She also died in a plane crash in 1929.
  • The first Latin teacher in Alaska was Ruth Schaefer who arrived in Alaska in 1939 and settled in Palmer. She is this writer’s grandmother and died in 2001 in Iowa City, Iowa. She was 92 years old and she is missed.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


15 thoughts on “Thank God it’s Friday: In the company of women edition

  1. Oscar Avellaneda-Cruz

    Thanks for this post Amanda. I especially LOVE how you looked at the board levels of Alaska’s local banks. I’m curious to see what Lesli’s conference will entail. My partner and I are preparing for our first baby and we’re both aggravated about how hard her employer makes it for her and other mothers to breastfeed at work.

    @Lesil if your still reading these comments, it is important that your conference help men understand that these issues are not exclusive to women. Gender equality affects our households and society which means we men need to be pro-active and aware of how we are either helping or inhibiting progress. Thankfully my amazing partner Laura works in this area and brings me up to speed with her passion and love for teaching:

  2. Anonymous

    This is wonderful Amanda. Suicide rates are also ten times higher for women in Alaska and women are still more likely to be victims of sexual assault in Alaska than any other state. We Can do better! The theme of our conference is “Women, our most underdeveloped natural resource.” We are putting the summit together in partnership with APU so it will be at their campus Oct 17 and 18. We invite any Alaska woman that wants to attend to join us. We will have a facilitator during the summit that will help us reach some main goals for us to work on collectively for the great women of this state.

  3. MB

    I’m surprised nobody remembers Lyda Green – she was also a woman who served as Senate President. I very much loved this post, thanks so much for writing. I appreciate your point and I’m sorry we’re all jumping down your throat – there are lots of amazing women in Alaska, hard to remember them all! 🙂 And mark my words, women will decide the 2014 Senate election. Get out the vote!

  4. admin

    Thanks for this Linda. Maybe merits a separate piece about the history of Alaska women in its legal system.

  5. Tim Lindell

    I think Lesil should go to an out-of-state conference with Jay Ramras, maybe in New York – as an employer, he could probably offer valuable advice on this issue, and on running for LtGov as well.

  6. Linda Kellen Biegel

    The first black attorney in Alaska happened to be a woman, Mahala Ashley Dickerson, admitted to the bar in 1959 and the first black president of the National Association of Women Lawyers, 1983-1984.

    “According to her Alaska Bar Association profile, Dickerson prosecuted “one of the first equal pay cases on behalf of women university professors who received less pay than their male counterparts.”. In 1995, she was awarded the Margaret Brent Award from the American Bar Association, an honor also given to U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor.”

  7. Erick Cordero Giorgana

    You forgot that Dana Fabe has been Chief Justice several times and several presiding judges in Alaska are women judges. Also, two of our women judges were elevated to federal court positions not long ago: Sharon Gleasson and Morgan Christen.

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