An impressive array of women from
all regions of the State of Nevada gathered for the third biennial Womens Summit
2000 at the RIVIERA HOTEL CONVENTION CENTER. The conference goals were to empower women to
take an active role in improving the status and rights of women and families; to inform
women of legislative issues affecting them; to recognize the contributions of women to the
economy and to encourage their participation in defining its direction. The attendees had
the opportunity to listen to national and local leaders speak about topics of concern for
women, and to participate in discussions proposing solutions.
At the opening
plenary, U.S. Senator Richard Bryan and Lt. Governor Lorraine Hunt gave an overview of
womens roles in Washington and in Nevadas economy. Women are a potential
driving force of political influence because they make up 53% of the electorate, and
neither party can win without the womens vote. Senator Bryan spoke about the
following important womens issues that must be addressed on the political agenda.
The Patients Bill of Rights; choice and reproductive rights (now being jeopardized
by the chipping away at Roe vs. Wade); expanding provisions for the Family Leave Medical
Act for employers who have less than 50 employees, and expanding Medicare to include
networking were part of the conference, and several interesting and helpful interactive
workshops were offered. Workshop topics included:
WITH EQUAL PAY:
Women are now a dominant force in the workplace. Along with younger women, more than 70%
of women in mid-life work full-time, and 80% of baby-boomers say they expect to continue
working in some capacity after retiring. Although eco-nomic parity with men is gaining, a
wage gap still exists. Women earn 74 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same work,
and women of color are paid only 64 cents for every dollar. Much of the wage gap is due to
women still being segregated into traditional female-dominated jobs with low wages. Less
than 1/3 of women work in higher paying managerial and professional fields. In the 35
years since equal employment laws were passed, women and people of color have made
significant strides into the mainstream of the American workplace, but lingering unequal
pay robs them of economic security and reduces retirement income. To ensure women receive
equal pay, vigorous enforcement of current equal pay laws; passage of stronger and better
equal pay laws, and greater protections for workers rights to organize together into
unions would be beneficial. Proposed legislation, if passed, will enable women to sue
their employers for wrongful termination; sexual discrimination and wage disparities more
easilybut will they?
CHILD CARE, EDUCATION
and PAID FAMILY LEAVE:
Working women are very concerned about finding affordable quality childcare.
Implementation of laws to improve the quality and affordability of childcare is needed.
Industry leaders must be made aware of the importance of childcare options for their
workers. More than 14 million people work hours other than 9-5, and only 2% of childcare
centers provide care during evenings, weekends and overnight.
often responsible for supporting parents, spouses and children, and flexibility is needed
in their schedules to juggle work and family.
Women-owned businesses are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. economy. They influence
the economy with their values and priorities and many offer workplace policies such as
childcare, health care and flexibility. Leaders at both the national and state levels can
help women entrepreneurs by increasing credit and financing options. They can provide
training, education and mentoring opportunities, develop womens business-owner
networks and technology; and identify programs that help or hinder women business owners.
DIVERSITY IN THE
The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) is an organization devoted to educate
the community about the importance of diversity. PLANs goal is to build a powerful
progressive movement in Nevada to strengthen and unify people from all walks of life to
ensure freedom and equality for everyone. PLANS Liz Carrasco facilitated a luncheon
where voices for solutions spoke out
speaker, Debra Feemster is the principal for a Reno Middle School, and the only
African/American administrator in Washoe County. She says parents need to take an active
stand with their children and be aware of what is going on with them. The second speaker,
Jacqui Barker, an African/American school counselor in Las Vegas says that although there
has been progress in eliminating racism, it is alive and well.
Karen Nussbaum, Director, Working Womens Department AFL-CIO.
The Nevada Womens Lobby works to improve the status of women and families through
legislative action. They track legislation and alert members when action is needed, and
individuals are trained to participate in the legislative process. Bobbie Gang of the
Nevada Womens Lobby facilitated a workshop called Grassroots Organizing.
Strategies for planning campaigns, becoming a decision-maker and getting bills passed
through the state legislature were outlined.
Somehow the legal system seems to be inadequate in responding to domestic violence. Every
eight seconds a woman is battered and often killed. Battering of women is the most
underreported crime in America. Abuse occurs among rich and poor, young and old, and in
every socio-economic, racial, ethnic and religious group. Abusive behaviors besides
physical violence include emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse.
control are actually what domestic violence is about and is usually learned from the
family of origin. The learned pattern of behavior usually involves a courtship phase and
then an abusive change without provocation. Often victims are blamed for not leaving and
and shame, but cant leave because they are financially or emotionally dependent on
the abuser. Abusers are good at convincing people they are not at fault and The Family
Court system does not seem to consider violence in child custody cases.
HEALTH CARE ACCESS
Bob Griss from the Center on Disability and Health in Washington, spoke about the
inequities of health care, the horrors of HMOs and how we can change the system. He
pointed out the many symptoms of todays health care crisis. He says the idea in HMOs
is to take a seat and you will be seen in order of profitability. There is fiction about
consumer choice as there really is no competition. Quality is often neglected with people
receiving inappropriate care, and there are many medical errors in hospitals. The quality
of health care must be improved.
about the Patients Bill of Rights and of there being a gag clause about not telling
patients about it. Rapidly increasing drug prices do not seem to be justified with profits
outweighing research. Federal worker health plans cover contraceptive drugs and devices,
but this basic health care coverage is denied to women in the private sector. The Equity
in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act of 1999 introduced by Senator
Harry Reid along with Rep. Greenwood (R-PA), Lowey (D-NY) and Senator Snowe (R-ME),
ensures that all Americans with private insurance have access to this very basic form of
health care. Griss says that health care decision-making should be a civil rights issue
with public accountability.
LONG TERM CARE:
A workshop on choices and dilemmas about long term care explained how to evaluate and
select different types of facilities. In addition to touring the facility, questions
should be asked about inspection reports and complaints, residents rights, referrals
and the percentage of residents that go back into the community. Different long-term care
facilities such as nursing homes, assisted living, retirement communities, and dementia
units were addressed.
'STARS' OUR NEXT
A workshop by Dr. Karen Paquette explained the outstanding programs for middle school
girls in At-Risk Schools. Girls in need were taught how to be self-sufficient. In closing,
Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa presented the Nevada Womens Role Model Awards.
Recognition was given to five outstanding women for their achievements and impact on
society. Nominated for this award by their peers were Jan Biggerstaff, Mary Ann Dutchover,
Rose Mary Jacobson, Margaret "Peggy" Levitt and J. Shannon Swann.
Senator Harry Reid spoke about federal issues concerning women in the year 2000. He said
that more women are needed in the National Legislature and that the system needs to be
changed so money is not the guiding force in getting elected. He also spoke of the need to
increase funding for Domestic Violence shelters by 400%.
closed urging women that it is time to organize and mobilize to make a difference in
elections. Women must express their views and remind legislators that when women succeed,
everyone succeeds. LVN