Celebrating Women’s History Month: Meet the Women Leaders Behind the Common Sense Institute
From women’s history to history-in-the-making, Common Sense Institute is a rare, women-led think tank stepping up to take problems head on.
Women’s History Month is celebrated annually during the month of March in the United States — a time for recognizing and honoring the contributions that women have made throughout American history. The month-long celebration began as a week-long event in 1980, when President Jimmy Carter declared the week of March 8 as National Women’s History Week. In 1987, the week was expanded to a month-long celebration, and it has been observed every year since.
Here at ColoradoBiz, we seek opportunities to spotlight exceptional women leading our state. There are numerous women who are making significant contributions and achieving in various fields, including business, politics, education, arts and culture. Trying to choose just one is a good problem to have.
READ: Guest Column — Fighting Gender Politics in the Home Improvement Industry
However, occasionally an individual or group surfaces that we simply can’t look past. For us, that’s the women driving the Common Sense Institute (CSI), a nonpartisan research organization committed to providing objective research and analysis on public policy issues.
With state chapters in Arizona and Colorado, CSI has become a leading voice for free enterprise across the country. Focusing on eight different policy categories ranging from housing and education to health care and transportation, the organization has taken center stage in policy discussions and sparked thoughtful, innovative solutions around the country.
CSI is led by Kristin Strohm, who serves as the organization’s president and CEO. Strohm was one of the original founders of CSI and assumed the leadership of the organization in 2018. One important aspect of CSI’s success is its commitment to diversity and inclusion, especially diverse viewpoints, and including gender diversity in leadership.
In 2022, Common Sense Institute was a finalist for ColoradoBiz’s Top Company award and captured this insight from its president and CEO, Kristin Strohm.
READ: How to Hire with Diversity in Mind
Under Strohm’s leadership, CSI has built a leadership team comprised of women, something quite rare among think tanks, according to national data. A 2018 study found that women only made up 30% of highest-paid employees. In Colorado, only 5% of 122 publicly traded companies have a female CEO and only 13% of executive officers in Colorado are women.
In a nod to Women’s History Month, Strohm recently highlighted her all-female team leading CSI with some key hires, including:
- Cinamon Watson, Chief Operating Officer
- Kelly Caufield, Executive Director, CSI Colorado
- Katie Ratlief, Executive Director, CSI Arizona
A look at their backgrounds proves that CSI (and Colorado) are lucky to have such accomplished and talented women within their leadership team.
In addition to promoting female leadership within the organization, CSI has also worked to promote women’s voices in public policy debates in Colorado. For instance, following COVID the organization played a pivotal role in identifying the “shesession.” In an opinion column penned by Strohm, she called on policymakers to take notice of the crisis and act.
“To be clear: A generation of progress for women in the workplace in Colorado could be reversed if we do not take immediate action to understand and ultimately solve this problem,” Strohm said. “Further, we cannot talk about re-opening the economy without a real plan for childcare and education as these jobs in the home tend to fall on women.”
That’s a strong, bold and true statement.
Pointing to her list of accredited fellows, Strohm credits diversity as a key differentiator and for playing a critical role in the organization. She says it’s their “secret sauce” and the strength behind their non-partisan brand. They seek to look beyond the rhetoric and political spin — to bridge the divide and deliver the facts and analysis that drive public policy.
With the political and policy troubles Colorado continues to face, to say that we need a solid dose of common sense would be a gross understatement. Thankfully we have women leaders like Strohm and others at CSI stepping up to take Colorado’s problems head on.
Jon Haubert is the publisher of ColoradoBiz magazine. Email him at email@example.com.