Friday, November 5, 2010

Vision 2020-ending gender inequality

Philadelphia was the birthplace of equality for men. Now it is the home of a movement to end gender inequality. A thousand women gathered in Philadelphia recently for Vision 2020, a conference about overcoming barriers to women’s equality. Spearheaded by the Drexel University College of Medicine, the congress features Oscar winner Geena Davis; Jane Seymour; the first black woman astronaut, Mae Jemison; Lisa Nutter, the mayor’s wife; and Sunoco CEO Lynn Elsehans.

Vision 2020 co-founder Lynn Yeakel, the director of Drexel University Medical School’s Institute of Women’s Health and Leadership, stressed the need for the gathering, “Women earn 80 cents for every dollar me earn. Women of color earn 62 cents. This wage gap costs the average working woman $700,000 to $2 million over her lifetime.”

Rosemary Greco, former Corestates CEO, stated that Vision 2020 plans a 10 -year effort to increase the amount of women in leadership positions. “3% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Despite the influence of Sarah Palin and Nancy Pelosi, there are only 6 women governors and 17% of Congress is women,” said Greco, Vision 2020 co-founder.

The summit produced concrete ideas on how to advance women in leadership positions. Sunoco CEO Lynn Elsehans advocates programs for young girls that will promote self- confidence and end self -limitation. She recalled, "Often when I would approach a woman for a promotion, she would refuse the job because of a lack of confidence."

Elsehans continued, “Ideally, women in senior positions will promote other women. One of my first acts as CEO was to appoint 3 women to the board of Sunoco. Academic studies have shown that with three women on the board the dynamics of the company change."

Roberta Liebenberg, chairman of the American Bar Association's committee for the advancement of women, wants more companies to follow Microsoft's and Walmart's lead."Microsoft rewards law firms for diversification with bonuses. Conversely, they fire the firms that are not diversified enough. Walmart insists that one out of the five relationship managers of the law firm be on flex time," she said.

Jane Seymour, who spent her childhood working in her doctor father's office, was thrilled to come to Philadelphia for Drexel College of Medicine. She said, "My character Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman went to medical school at the predecessor school to Drexel- Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania. Seymour, a former Bond Girl, is proud of playing Dr. Quinn and feels that it had a positive impact on women, She proudly mentioned, "Dr Quinn still plays on television every day in the United States and 98 countries. Women come up to me all the time and credit my character with convincing them to be a doctor."

In conjunction with this Congress, the National Constitutional Center has opened a new exhibit featuring milestones in women’s equality. It marks the date of the first female candidate as well as the first time a court refused to grant a woman a divorce. “This exhibition was created to inform the public about women’s history, which is often only a slim chapter in American history books,” Vision 2020 Co-Chair Lynn Yeakel said.

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