Women on the Move Network and the University of La Verne organized the “Gender Equality: Am I There Yet?” conference Saturday to discuss possible issues, obstacles and solutions surrounding the equal treatment of men and women.
“We are a campus that is proud to promote understanding and tolerance of every gender, race, creed, culture, and all other attributes that make people unique individuals,” president Devorah Lieberman said.
The conference featured keynote speaker, F. Michael Higginbotham, a renowned law professor, author and international political consultant from University of Baltimore School of Law.
Breakout sessions were led by professionals Michael A. Ramos, San Bernardino County district attorney, Martha Bellinger, retired Los Angeles County superior court judge, Susan Nauss Exon, associate dean for faculty development and professor of law at University of La Verne, and Soheila Azizi, trial attorney, dispute resolution and collaborative professional.
They covered the topics of racism, income equality, human trafficking, domestic violence, LGBT, ageism and the sexualization of girls and women.
“We planned a program that we hope will inform, inspire, encourage, stimulate, even challenge, you who attend, and result in sincere efforts to unite, serve and make a difference in your own lives and in the lives of others,” Women on the Move Network chair and Associate Professor of Management Omid Furutan said.
The Women on the Move Network is an organization that pushes for a peaceful society through programs of community service and raising awareness to help improve the status of women around the world and in our own communities.
The day started with the welcome speeches by Furutan, Lieberman and Chaplain Zandra Wagoner.
Lieberman shared stories of her childhood upbringing. She explained how as a young girl, she was constantly put down for being too tough and “acting like a man.”
Today, as president of the University, she said she still overhears these comments.
“Every one of us deals with these types of stereotypes and attributes every day,” she said. “My message to you is to recognize these stereotypes and the attributes that people put on you and surround you and be who you are, exceed everybody’s expectations and your own expectations and achieve more than you’ve ever imagined.”
Wagoner expressed her gratitude to the Women on the Move Network, the board members and everyone behind the scenes to put the conference together.
“The thing that always strikes me about Women on the Move is that it’s always about looking at local communities and helping to improve our own neighborhoods,” Wagoner said. “They have a sincere desire to empower girls and women and to empower a more just and equitable community.”
Higginbotham had a clear message of taking a universal approach to solving the problem of gender inequality. He quoted the famous line “For whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee” by John Donne to support his message.
“We need to integrate our society much more in terms of gender and not only from the bottom but from the top,” Higginbotham said. “The most important solution we need to have is the ‘We Are the World’ solution, a universal approach to human beings.”
Women on the Move Network board member and conference co-chair Barbara Matthews gave a final overview, redefining injustices within our society.
“Society offers brilliant achievements on intellectual, technological and economic spheres. On the other hand, society witnesses income inequality, poverty, violence, cynicism and lack of trust for institutions,” Matthews said.
She said the answers to these problems are not solely found in politics, economics or technology. The solution lies in our hands.
“Each of us shares the same basic human need for love and acceptance, for justice and fairness, for courtesy and respect, for safety and shelter and both women and men want these things,” she said.
The conference ended with final visits to community resource tables where people could talk to each agency.
“I always reinforce to our students, faculty, and staff that together, we can achieve more than we ever imagined,” Lieberman said. “I encourage you to take what you learn today and apply it to your life to achieve more than you ever imagined.”
Alyssa Navarro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.