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Jillian Singh/MEDILL

There were at least 1,100 people who attended the Women Employed 40th annual luncheon Tuesday.

Jillian Singh/MEDILL

Stephanie Coontz, author and professor,  ends her speech at the 40th annual Women Employed luncheon.

Women’s advocacy group celebrates milestone by looking toward the future

by Jillian Singh
May 14, 2013

An emotional young mother took the stage at a female empowerment luncheon Tuesday to describe her struggle with paying for higher education and what has helped her.

“I can’t be much more proud then I am standing here, through the success that I’ve made and my determination to finish school,” she said. “I never thought I’d make it.”

“I met a Women Employed member of Advocate for Success at my college,” she said, “which is when I learned about their work with financial aid and said what can I do to help?”

The Women Employed 40th anniversary event celebrated women’s success in past years, but speakers mostly discussed action that still needs to be taken.

At least 1,100 men and women were in attendance, including Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Anne Ladky, executive director of Women Employed, summarized past female accomplishments by saying “women with education and advantages are doing better than they ever have before.”

Still, Ladky said she sees two planets of women in our society. The first world, she said, has women in professional and managerial positions that still pose problems such as equal pay, but allow considerable flexibility in regards to them spending time with their family.

The second world has “millions of women who work hard in jobs we all depend on,” said Ladky, who was the first keynote speaker. “Those who work in restaurants, day cares, etc., who’s wages are too low. These are women who are working but still can’t make ends meet.

“Their daily lives: hard work that doesn’t lift them from out of poverty, little to no respect for the work they do, them not being able to be there for their kids, their lives are very, very different from those working on the first planet.”

For the future, Ladky reiterated that one of Women Employed’s main goals is to advocate for economic security for everyone.

The second keynote speaker, Stephanie Coontz, a historian and author, ended the event by focusing on other current, pressing issues.

“The sequester that passed in March will slice nutrition subsidies for 600,000 pregnant women, newborns and infants,” said Coontz, who also teaches family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash.

“Public housing budgets will be cut by $2 billion by the end of the year,” Coontz said. “We still need your support and advocacy.”