An inspirational event: Women’s Way conference, Women & Influence, 2006
The euphoria I felt after the election has passed—a euphoria tempered by the defeat of Lois Murphy, a great candidate who I hope will run again.
With a Democratic congress we are in a better position to tackle deep-rooted structural problems, but the problems are so enormous, it’s real easy to get overwhelmed.
The Women’s Way conference, Women & Influence, 2006 held on Saturday, Nov. 18 provided me with the inspiration I need to keep plugging away. The conference focused on the challenges facing low wage women & families in America
For me the highlight of the conference was the keynote address by Donna Copper, Secretary of Policy and Planning for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. She focused not only on the need for economic supports but also as she put it, the need to address the “poverty of not being fulfilled.” She emphasized the restorative power of culture—e.g. The Shakespeare in Prison Project—and the importance of drawing on a broad range of cultural resources to enable women to find “their own cultural center.”
She also argued against what she characterized as a knee jerk, left-wing approach to faith based programs. I may be one of those knee jerk leftists. As someone with secular values, I’ve been deeply troubled by the use of federal funds to support programs which discriminate in hiring. However, I think Donna Cooper has a point that dramatic benefits can result from “harnessing the power of religion and spirituality.’” She gave me a lot to think about.
I was inspired by the energy and dedication of the speakers and the hundred or so women in the room. And there were a few men in the room, including Paul Vallas who after his address to the group made himself available to people who had issues /questions they wanted to ask, but preferred not to raise in a public forum.
Other highlights: Dana Barron challenged us to question why care-giving (largely performed by women) is not seen as a public good the way defense of the country is considered a public good.
Blondell Reynolds Brown (who really can connect with an audience) described her efforts to increase child care options. She stressed the importance of electing women who themselves are juggling work/family issues. These women will put affordable, quality child care on the front burner.
Blondell challenged us to pay attention to what the mayoral candidates have to say about after school programs—a major problem facing families in our city.
Carol Goertzal focused on empowerment of single women who are becoming a significant voting bloc which will demand that elected officials address issues such as child care. She noted that women on average pay one third (!!) of their income on child care. Women making 25,000 tell their employers not to give them a raise because the raise will make them ineligible for subsidized child care.
Jean Hunt, who is very skilled at explaining complex economic issues to a non-specialist audience, described the impact of predatory lending practices—-exorbitant interest rates on credit cards, pay day lenders, predatory mortgage lending. She urged us to demand regulation of banks which are sucking money out of our communities through these predatory lending practices.
A group of my Women’s Studies students at Community College of Philadelphia attended the conference and were so impressed they got permission to take extra program booklets filled with valuable information about working women’s lives. They distributed them in class today to the students who were not able to attend the conference.
Thanks so much to Melissa and Tamela and the rest of the Women’s Way staff for organizing this event!