Societal attention on gender inequality has grown, with women's marches throughout the world in January, to Southern Arizona's Republican and Democratic representatives hosting conversations about women empowerment.
Decades ago, feminists worked to ensure women had childcare options when they decided to enter the workforce, fought to end stigmas about which careers women could have, and supported them through single parenting after divorce.
But issues remain, from health care coverage to pay discrepancy.
On this episode of Metro Week:
A panel of women from different generations compare their experiences:
Tanya Nuñez is graduating from the University of Arizona this weekend with a degree in film and television. “I’m from the generation where women obviously have a lot more opportunities than in the past,” she said. She's happy to see female empowerment entering the cultural debate because she sees a need for it. Nuñez said she wants to continue making films and help increase the percentage of women in director and producer roles in the United States, with only 17 percent employed on major films, she said.
Karla Avalos had her first child as a teenager and is a single mom. She said the father of her child was treated differently, even though he was also a teen parent. She has worked to disprove the assumptions many make about her, such as that she wouldn't find career success because she had a child at a young age. She works as a senior adviser in the mayor’s office. One area she sees needing improvement for gender equality: “We don’t have a lot of female representation in politics in elected officials.”
T. VanHook is CEO of Habitat for Humanity Tucson. “Are we making strides? Absolutely,” she said. But, there's work to be done to ensure people evaluate women the same way they do men. It is insulting, she said, when people assume she is not in charge of the organization because she's a woman. She said 60 percent of the housing Habitat for Humanity has provided has been for families with a female head of household. That's because "women bear the brunt of what happens in our society," VanHook said.
Alison Hughes has worked in civil rights and community activism for decades. She was the first director of the Tucson Women's Commission, and has worked on expanding rights for women business owners and ensuring equal access to things like trade jobs and commission sales. “The laws needed to be changed to assure women’s equality,” she said. “Today there is still immense inequality for women."
The panel discussed what's needed to solve the issue of inequality.
Hughes encouraged women to get involved in politics to make policy changes, as she did in the 1970s.
Avalos said women need to stand up for themselves and point out unequal treatment any time it happens. One step beyond that, Nuñez said women also need to support one another in such situations.
VanHook said social services are needed to help support women who are navigating a society that holds them in unequal standing.
Also in this episode
Statistics from the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona show 51.8 percent of people served are women. Women are more likely to pick up emergency food boxes, at 63.8 percent of all pickups. Those numbers change at the bank's sack lunch pickup locations, where more men show up. "Sometimes women who are experiencing homelessness are a little more maybe off the grid, especially if they have children. There’s a fear that if they show up to a site with children they may get reported, there may be repercussions and concerns about the wellbeing of their children," said Megan Black, of the food bank's Caridad Community Kitchen, a culinary training program.
The YWCA celebrates its 100th anniversary this month. It's philosophy is to determine community needs and find a way to meet them, which has morphed from providing a swimming pool anyone could use during a time of racial segregation, to offering Latina Leadership courses now, and providing job training to help women enter in-demand jobs. “Those of us who are women, and/or people of color, and/or LGBTQ, and or any number of categories of people who are marginalized by the laws and policies of this country, we know why it’s still necessary,” said Kelly Fryer, CEO of the YWCA.