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Aurora holds forum on women's issues

Aug 4, 2017
In The News

Equal pay for women will probably not become a reality for years to come, some area leaders said at a forum on women's issues in Aurora on Thursday.

The event was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, at West Aurora High School.

Foster said women still make less than men despite efforts going back to the Equal Pay Act that President John Kennedy signed into law in 1963.

"Today, women make 79 cents for every $1 that men make, and that ratio is even worse for women of color," he said.


Foster is co-sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, proposed legislation that would make wage discrimination based on gender subject to the same remedies as discrimination based on race or national origin.

"This is especially important because in 2012, over 60 percent of women were the sole or primary breadwinners in the family. This is a family issue, not just a women's issue," he told the audience.

Andie Kramer and Al Harris, attorneys in two law firms, authored "Breaking through Bias" that offers communications techniques for women to succeed in work.

Harris said the progress of the late 1970s and 1980s has stalled since the 1990s.


"We have about the same number of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies and the same percentage of women who are equity partners in law firms that we did in the late 1990s," Harris said.

Kramer said it'll be years before the workplace overcomes gender bias.

"The speculation now is that it could be another 100 years before women have equal pay," she said.

K. Sujata, president and CEO of the Chicago Foundation for Women, asked how many more generations of women will have to accept 20 percent less pay than men.

She said the foundation created the 100 Percent Project, described as a coordinated effort to increase women's economic security and put an end to gender bias. The 2030 goal is for all women in the Chicago area to have equal pay and benefits in the workplace.

"The 100 Percent Project must involve all of us," she said.

Foster said gender biases in the workplace remain one of the most significant challenges to women.

"We even see examples of it in Congress where female senators are too often interrupted and talked-over by their male colleagues," Foster said.

He said women who negotiate for promotions are likely to be labeled as intimidating, aggressive or bossy.

"We need to challenge these attitudes," he said.

Elizabeth Sturm, of the League of Women Voters Naperville, is an assistant professor at Lewis University in Romeoville. She has researched the workplace opportunities for women at universities.

"One in 10 women make it to full professor, and women achieve tenure less than men do, and that's even with women coming out with more advanced degrees than men. There is plenty of talent, but women are not receiving the same benefits," Sturm said.

Jerre Henriksen represented the Aurora branch of the American Association of University Women. She said more women are needed in federal, state and local leadership roles. She said that last year only six women were U.S. governors and two were women of color.

She said employers need to promote flexibility and fair expectations for both men and women and enforce fair policies through tools like diversity training and blind resume screening.

"How do we close the gender leadership gap? First of all we need to look at ourselves as individuals. We are partly responsible and will be part of the solution. ... The future is rushing at us. Let's take a hand in the future," she said.