In a time when half of the region’s largest companies have no women on their executive teams and local female nonprofit leaders are saying there’s still a glass ceiling, there’s an urgent need for women’s issues to be at the forefront of our city’s political mind. And Jovida Hill is the one to bring them there.
“I am one of seven sisters — no brothers,” said the lifelong Philadelphian and graduate of West Philadelphia High School and Temple University. “I guess women’s issues stood out real early with me.”
Last month, Hill was appointed by Mayor Jim Kenney, the Office of Public Engagement and Councilwoman At-Large Blondell Reynolds Brown as the executive director of the newly reformed Mayor’s Commission for Women.
Hill has a storied history of fighting for the rights of the underrepresented. She worked as an advocate for women’s rights during the 1970s and ’80s for the likes of Planned Parenthood and Philadelphia’s Black Women’s Health Project. In 2007, she was given an award from the Leeway Foundation for a film she worked on entitled “Grand Ma’s Kids” — a work that highlighted the tireless care that grandparents provide to their grandchildren when their parents are absent due to incarceration, addiction and other destabilizing matters.
"It is not a big step when we are talking about a women’s commission and inclusion — it was a logical progression."
Prior to her current position, Hill was an administrator in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Much of her work there included being a liaison for the Office of LGBTQ Affairs and the Commission on People with Disabilities.
“I guess it is not a big step when we are talking about a women’s commission and inclusion — it was a logical progression,” Hill said. “I was asked to take such a position and I was happy to do so. I think at this age and stage I can not imaging a more worthwhile position.”
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The Commission for Women previously existed during the Green administration but eventually dissolved. According to Hill, Reynolds-Brown was dedicated to bringing back this commission, making it a permanent fixture in the mayor’s office through a change in the house charter.
The commission is dedicated to creating positive change within the lives of all women of Philadelphia. Twenty-seven members who were appointed to the commission — 10 individuals chosen by the mayor and 17 chosen by City Council. The group includes activists, corporate professionals, nonprofit leaders, educators, legislators and more. The members’ backgrounds and identities also reflect the diversity in the city.
The commission will tackle issues regarding women who want to advance in their established careers, among others.
“The administration is very aware of the issues of diversity and inclusion,” Hill said. “I think having that diversity and inclusion lens at the very top level of the administration and at all levels of the administration is important.”
Being that the Commission for Women is only a few weeks old, the focus now is on creating an internal organizational structure. Once that’s done, the commission plans to create committees to tackle some of the most pressing matters facing women in Philadelphia.
“Paid family medical leave and those kinds of things,” Hill said when asked about specific issues the commission plans to tackle. “We also plan on tackling the issues regarding women who want to advance in their established careers — like looking at pay equity and looking at the number of women on corporate boards.”
Philadelphia is now the 32nd city in the U.S. to have a women’s commission. Hill understands that in order for this commission to make a significant impact, and for women to find equality in all parts of their life their initiatives need to be based in policy change.
“It is very important that we have one and it is very important that we are at the table, that women’s issues have a place,” she said. “I think it also makes a lot of sense that this commission comes under the jurisdiction of the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement — it is our priority is to engage on issues faced by the residents of Philadelphia. I think there needs to be a place where our issues are voiced and heard and we can affect public policy.”-30-
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