Women Money Power Summit Recap

I spent Friday and Saturday in Washington, DC at the Women Money Power Summit hosted by the Feminist Majority and YWCA USA. There were actually two conferences I considered attending this weekend, the other being the Civil Leadership & Public Policy (CLPP) 30th anniversary conference in Amherst, MA. I chose the Women Money Power Summit for two reasons. First, it was easier to get to and around DC than Amherst, especially since I don’t drive. Second, I guessed that Women Money Power might be more action-oriented, where CLPP might be more theoretical. There is no way for me to know if I made the right decision. There have been some amazing tweets from the CLPP conference. That said, I had a wonderful time in DC at the summit. The agenda was fairly inclusive and broad-based, and the attendees ranged widely in age and race (but not gender — There were virtually no male attendees). As I anticipated, the conference had a strong actualizing air to it. Workshops were focused on what could be done immediately or in the near future on the various topics. I will recap below the sessions I attended and what I learned each day.

Thursday

The Summit began on Thursday with a luncheon honoring Nancy Pelosi and participation in the Pro-Choice Lobby Day that was held on Capitol Hill. I was not able to attend Thursday’s activities, but my understanding is that they went well.

Friday

Friday’s opening panel was on Women and Power Globally, moderated by Dolores Huerta, Co-Founder of United Farm Workers; President of Dolores Huerta Foundation. The panelists included Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY), Mavis Leno, Chair of Feminist Majority Foundation Campaign for Women & Girls, Zareen Taj, Women’s Rights Activist and former Feminist Majority Foundation Afghan Scholar, and Reverend Barry W. Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The panel primarily discussed the budget battle in congress, which was still underway on Friday morning, from the varying perspectives of the panelists.

Next we moved into breakout sessions. I chose “Advancing Equality in Employment,” moderated by Deborah Fret, CEO of Business and Professional Women’s Foundation, with panelists were Lisa Banks, Partner at Katz, Marshall, and Banks; Noreen Farrell, Managing Attorney at Equal Rights Advocates and Co-Counsel in Dukes v. Walmart; and Elizabeth Grossman, Acting Director of New York District Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The takeaway of this session was that the three ways to address an issue are to litigate, legislate, and educate. Those on the panel were primarily in the litigate camp in various capacities, and it was interesting to hear about some of the cases they see and issues they face. There was some discussion of the Walmart case as well. I learned that Betty Dukes, the top plaintiff in the case, still works for Walmart and the company now relies on her when they have questions. It was also mentioned that many of the women who work for Walmart consider themselves conservatives and non-feminists, and yet they found themselves at the center of this issue.

After the breakout session was the YWCA Keynote Lunch, during which Dolores Huerta spoke about immigration issues in the US and our lack of leadership in electing women to congress

For the afternoon breakout session I went to “Increasing Women’s Representation in State Legislatures and Congress,” moderated by Alice Cohan, Political Director of the Feminist Majority. The panelists were Susan Carrol, Senior Scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University; Jennifer Lawless, Director of the Women & Politics Institute, School of Public Affairs, American University; and Erin Cutraro, Managing Vice President and Political Director, Women’s Campaign Forum. Takeaways were that women are 30% less likely than men to think about going into politics, and another 30% less likely to think they are qualified, even though they are just as likely as men to get elected if they actually do run. So, in order to increase the amount of women in elected positions, more women need to run for office. Since on average a woman must be asked to run 6 times before she will do so, and is more likely to run for office after her children are grown, the 2012 Project and other initiatives focus on recruiting/asking women 45 and older to run. There is a goal to do a major push for more women candidates in the 2012 election cycle. There are also initiatives such as She Should Run, targeted at younger women who may run “at some point” rather than immediately.

Friday’s agenda concluded with a session called “Town Hall: Fighting for Social Justice, Equality, & Human Rights,” with panelists Dolores Huerta and Shririn Ebadi, and facilitated by Katherine Spillar, Executive Editor of Ms. Magazine. This conversation focused on the changes in Iran and the struggles activists have encountered from the reform period up until now and challenges that US activists have faced as well.

Saturday

Saturday’s events began with an opening by Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority. She began with celebratory comments about the government shutdown and threat to Planned Parenthood/Title X funding having been averted. She cautioned that these successes did not come without a cost — for example, DC can no longer use its own funding to pay for abortion services. She then went through a whole list of issues on which we will have much work to do, including on education, labor, the 2012 budget, and others.

Smeal’s speech was followed by a panel on Women and Leadership, with panelists Kathy Korman Frey of Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership & Mentorship Professor, GW; Dee Martin, Parter at Bracewell and Giuliani; Co-Founder of Minute Mentoring; and Tina and Trinna Fletcher, Co-Founders of Dream Girls Mentoring Program. The takeaways from this panel were that mentor-ship can be a great way to foster leadership and help move women through the professional ranks. It can also be a great way to help yourself advance in your field. Also, leadership is flexibility and the ability to get the job done, big or small and whatever it takes.

The next panel was called Reducing Violence, with panelists Kim Gandy, Vice President & General Counsel, Feminist Majority Foundation; Immediate Past President, National Organization for Women and Lorraine Sheinberg, Producer. They showed Sheinberg’s video No More Excuses: Stop Racists, which explained that many cities have huge backlogs of rape kits. These backlogs mean not only that rape cases too often are not solved and perpetrators punished, but since rape is a serial crime, they are failing to prevent more rapes from happening by not catching rapists initially. The video focused on Los Angeles, but many cities across the country have similar backlogs.

For the afternoon breakout session I attended “Conversations across the Generations on Women’s Issues” moderated by Jeanette Castellanos Butt, Director of Sexual Violence and Support Services, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. Panelists were Karon Jolna, Ph.D., Women, Diversity, and Leadership, Department of Women’s Studies, UCLA; Anande Leeke, Digital Sisters Network; Kris Silvestry, YWCA Crisis Counselor, Eastern Union County, NJ; Pat Reuss, Policy Advisor, YWCA USA; and Caylynn Burroughs, JD.  We discussed the benefits and complications that arise in working with feminists of other generations and what could be done to improve those relationships. The common that older feminists think young feminists either don’t care or only are active on blogs and Twitter, while young feminists flocked to those spaces in the first place a) because it is the medium of their day, and b) because existing feminist organizations are unreceptive to their voices and ideas. Reuss made the point that it is difficult for her to always know what other people are doing unless they email her to tell her about it. Silvestry made the point that many young women who might otherwise chose this type of work are unable to do so because they cannot make a living that way. Reuss suggested trying to link more often to other feminist spaces, especially older organizations to younger, as the younger organizations already often link to the established organizations. Leeke suggested bring the voices of those who are offline into the online communities and vice versa, because ultimately we need both online and offline organizing to create change.

The summit concluded with a session called “Closing General Assembly — Call to Action!” Here are some of the highlights:

  • Gloria Lau, Interim CEO of YWCA USA said “Last night the opposition had some success. In this war, it’s death by a thousand cuts.”
  • Elizabeth Grayer, President of Legal Momentum, stressed the importance of communicating with your elected officials, both when you like what they did and when you don’t. It’s important for them to know who agrees with them. She also encouraged everyone to get involved, either in a small or large way, and said the Violence Against Women Act must be reauthorized.
  • Nancy Tate, Executive Director of League of Women Voters, echoed the message that lawmakers need to hear from constituents for both good and bad reasons. She also said people should register to vote,  volunteer as a poll worker (there is a 70k shortage in poll workers nationwide) and educate people they know about the various issues, including using  social media to fight misinformation.
  • Noreen Farrell said that there is power in numbers and companies know that, and that there is an assault on civil liberties occuring in our country.
  • Clare Coleman, President of National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, announced that Obama had told John Boehner that there would be absolutely zero cuts to family planning, and refused to budge. She said that Roe V. Wade told us that women have value, whether or not we are mothers, while anti-choice politicians believe we only have value as mothers.
  • E. Faye Williams of the Nationall Congress of Black Women said, Women will no longer tolerate the abuses & injustices against us.” The theme of her remarks was “we cannot go back, we will not go back.”
  • Lastly, Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization For Women, said there are 3 fundamental principles: the wealthy should pay their fair share of taxes, healthcare is a right not a privilege, and we need jobs to fix economy. She mentioned some bill numbers to keep an eye on/organize around: HR 1124 and another in the senate on tax brackets and HR 3, HR 358, and HR 217 on abortion. She also suggested that a large part of the wage disparity is caused by continued sex-segregation of industries, which disproportionately affects women of color.

Concluding Thoughts

The Summit was extremely empowering and uplifting. I am excited to get to work fighting the various attacks on our rights, and hopefully moving some of these issues further in the right direction. It is also comforting to know that I am not fighting alone; all of the women at this conference and more will be by my side in these fights.

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This entry was posted in Abortion, conferences, Education, Feminism, jobs.

One Response to Women Money Power Summit Recap

  1. Budget Deal Allows Regulations To Move Forward On For-Profit Colleges: Much of Friday’s last-minute budget gridlock centered on policy…

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