Amid speeches, lunch and local dignitaries, Santa Clara County’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), an advisory body that advocates for gender equality, commemorated its 50-year anniversary at LinkedIn headquarters in Mountain View on Thursday, Aug. 24.
The event, attended by 200 people, marked more than just an anniversary. It also celebrated Women’s Equality Day and the county’s recent adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), an international bill of rights for women.
For 24 years, women have waited for the county to implement the principles of CEDAW, said Benafir Dastoor, chair of the commission, who gave opening remarks. “Women who are half the population have been at a disadvantage simply due to their gender identities. And the root cause is discrimination,” she said.
CEDAW was created to remove these barriers. But its implementation has been a protracted process. While the United Nations adopted CEDAW in 1979, the treaty was never ratified by the United States, one of seven countries, out of 193, not to do so.
In 1999, CSW took up the cause and promoted CEDAW to advance gender equality and combat discrimination at a local level. The county's Board of Supervisors, in a 5-0 vote, formally adopted a CEDAW ordinance in May, creating a framework to integrate its principles into local laws and policies. The county is the fourth in the state to adopt this type of ordinance, Dastoor said.
While the luncheon celebrated many of the commission’s achievements over the past 50 years, it also presented the challenges that women face at home, in the workplace and society at large, with county Supervisor and board president Susan Ellenberg noting that this year should have been the 50-year anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Instead, it’s the first year anniversary of its demise, she said. “But as any woman knows and regardless of whether you've seen the Barbie movie or not, we don't get to choose the world that we live in. But we do get to fight like hell to shape our world in our image,” she said to applause.
The theme of perseverance continued with the keynote speech of State Controller Malia Cohen, who emphasized the need for a collective movement to advance the status of women. Economic empowerment was key to this agenda, she said.
As state controller, Cohen said she is always thinking about numbers, which led her to address the breakout success of women in the entertainment industry. This was not even imaginable 50 years ago, she said, referring to the billions of dollars generated by the Barbie movie, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift tours.
Smaller but just as significant achievements were happening at the household level too, Cohen said, noting the gains of the labor movement that has promoted equal pay to help close the wage gap for women. “The work that we're doing collectively, the policies that we’re advocating for, it’s making a difference,” she said. “And it’s manifesting every single day in our lives right now.”
At the event, the county's committee also honored Danielle Slaton, an Olympic medalist and former player for the U.S. Women’s Soccer team, with a Woman of Impact Award. The award recognized Slaton’s dedication to gender equality, as she co-founded the Bay Area’s first National Women’s Soccer League team. When Slaton accepted the award, she remarked that this was the first time she has been featured on an event program with another woman of color. “I’ve never seen that,” she said. “That matters to me.”
This visibility and support for equality is part of the county’s mission too, said Supervisor Joe Simitian, who represents District 5. “We need to be informed by data and work with groups like CSW,” he said. “They play a role in articulating the needs of the county from their perspective. We just need to listen."