Congresswoman Susan Davis, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi Visit Southwestern College
Lead panel discussion on Equal Pay Act-50 years later
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Congresswoman Susan Davis joined a panel of women mentors today at Southwestern College to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act. The event was a dialog to celebrate the accomplishments of women of all ages across the community, as well as organizations within the community that have instilled the same values as the Equal Pay Act—empowering young women.
Darcie Vargas, a 16- year-old from Sweetwater High, spoke about her time in the Hermanitas Program of MANA de San Diego, a women’s organization providing guidance, skills and support to young girls and women to help them succeed.
“I know a lot of people see women of color as a minority, even women in general,” said Vargas. “But I know that young ladies like myself who are pushed through this program have a bright future. It is sad to see that some women can’t look at themselves the way I look at myself, as a future leader. I believe it is programs like these that are important to have . . . not only do they motivate you, they set standards. They push us to acknowledge our personal accomplishments. ”
Celina Caprio, director of MANA de San Diego’s Hermanitas program, spoke about the diversity and uniqueness of our region and community. She explained how MANA de San Diego works to empower young Latinas to pursue finishing high school, seeking a higher education and guiding them to make great life choices.
"Our work empowers them to think outside the box, to make better educated choices” said Caprio. “I try to teach them to make the wisest, most educated choice for themselves.”
Jo Dee Jacob, CEO of the San Diego Girls Scouts, spoke of young women and their importance in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
“It’s absolutely critical that girls do not opt out of these career paths,” said Jacob. “Girls today love science and hands-on projects . . . it is a myth that girls don’t like science. What is true is that they opt out too soon and they limit their career options. If we have role models, like our sisters in Hermanitas, and partners in the community and show that girls can be like these women, they can stay excited about it. You can’t be what you don’t see.”
Tina Williams, the executive director for the South Bay Family YMCA, said it is also critical to help women build confidence. The YMCA helps achieve that through team sports and the young leaders program where high school students serve as teen legislators.
While the women’s groups represented on the panel work hard every day to build confidence in girls and young women, mentor them and show them the endless possibilities of their futures, there is much work left to do, the two congresswomen said.
Democratic Leader Pelosi held up a picture of President John F. Kennedy surrounded by the women who helped pass the Equal Pay Act 50 years ago. She told the story of Congresswoman Patsy Mink—the first woman of color elected to Congress—and her personal and professional struggles in getting this legislation passed.
Fifty years later, it is imperative to elect more women to help make our nation strong, Pelosi said.
“The more we empower women… in our economy… in our national security … in education… the better off our country will be,” Pelosi said.
But the struggle is not just to elect women to office, said Congresswoman Davis, it’s to have women see themselves at the highest levels of leadership.
Davis told the story of her chief of staff driving her 5-year-old daughter past the vice president’s house in Washington, D.C. Her chief of staff said that perhaps one day Congresswoman Davis could be the vice president. Her daughter said that wasn’t possible because it’s always a man.
“We are all here to change that,” Davis said. “There needs to be a critical mass of women (in leadership) so we can learn from one another and know there is support there.”
Congresswomen Nancy Pelosi and Susan Davis celebrate the accomplishments of women on the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act. Pictured L-R top row: Pelosi, Davis, Moderator Dr. Mary Walshok (UC-San Diego). Bottom row L-R: Student Darcie Vargas, Celina Caprio (director MANA de San Diego Hermanitas Program), Jo Dee Jacob (CEO Girl Scouts San Diego) and Tina Williams (executive director South Bay Family YMCA).