Sarasota News Leader

11/16/2012

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Sarasota News Leader November 16, 2012 antee women are paid the same salaries as men for completing equivalent work. "[President] Obama keeps trumpeting the fact that the first bill he signed was the Lilly Led- better Act," she said. "I'm delighted that that's the case, but it only involves a wrinkle in the interpretation of the way Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is interpreted. It corrected a loophole ... but women still only make 77 cents on every dollar that men make. This af- fects not only their current salary and wages, but their pensions. Over a lifetime they lose hundreds of thousands of dollars," she contin- ued. "At the rate we're going, to make it the same, it's going to take forever … More needs to be done to make equal pay a reality." Among the additional issues Fuentes men- tioned — though she said there were many others — were the lack of a mandate to guar- antee paid maternity leave and the failure of the United States to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimina- tion Against Women, which was adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly as an international bill of rights for women and ratified by every industrialized country in the world except the United States. Asked what people can do to help forward the cause of women's rights, Fuentes offered a number of suggestions. "If they are parents, they need to raise their male and female children equally and teach those children that they both have the same opportunities, they both have the same poten- tial," she said. For those who are not parents, the most important first step is to collaborate with other advocates. "I always urge people Page 70 to join organizations that are fighting for what they believe in," she said. "It is very hard to do something to change the society alone. You can write, which I do; you can speak, which I do; but you also need to join with like-minded people." Some of the organizations she suggested peo- ple join are NOW and UN Women, which has a large chapter in Sarasota, as well as women's chapters of professional groups and unions. Regardless of how one goes about doing it, Fuentes wants to remind people that fighting for women's rights is as important today as it ever has been, although it may not be quite as obvious. "The battle is more difficult now, because it's dealing in some cases with subtleties and nuances. In the early days, in the 1960s, ev- erybody could see the discrimination against women in employment, in getting into colleges and universities, in not being allowed to serve on juries — everything," she said. "Now, a lot of people think, 'What are you still carrying on about? Haven't you accomplished every- thing?'" There is still much to be accomplished in the fight for equal rights and equality for women, of course, Fuentes explained, so helping oth- ers to be vigilant in fighting present-day dis- crimination and inequality is of ever-increas- ing importance. That is why, even after decades on the front lines, Fuentes and Steinem continue to push forward. Fuentes says she is excited about seeing individuals of all backgrounds do the same. %

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