Women's Summit 2000

Nevada Women --
Voice Solutions...

By Dr. Adele Zorn, FAACS

An impressive array of women from all regions of the State of Nevada gathered for the third biennial Women’s 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.
Las VegasAt the opening plenary, U.S. Senator Richard Bryan and Lt. Governor Lorraine Hunt gave an overview of women’s roles in Washington and in Nevada’s 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 women’s vote. Senator Bryan spoke about the following important women’s issues that must be addressed on the political agenda. The Patient’s 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 prescriptions.
Las VegasExhibits and networking were part of the conference, and several interesting and helpful interactive workshops were offered. Workshop topics included:


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 easily—but will they?


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.
Las VegasWomen are 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 women’s business-owner networks and technology; and identify programs that help or hinder women business owners.

The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) is an organization devoted to educate the community about the importance of diversity. PLAN’s 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. PLAN’S Liz Carrasco facilitated a luncheon where voices for solutions spoke out
Las VegasThe keynote 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.



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Las Vegas
Karen Nussbaum, Director, Working Women’s Department – AFL-CIO.

The Nevada Women’s 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 Women’s 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.
Las VegasPower and 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 feel guilt
and shame, but can’t 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.


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 today’s 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.
Las VegasGriss spoke 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.

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, resident’s 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.

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 Women’s 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.
Las VegasUnited States 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%.
Las VegasThe conference 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