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The Global Empowerment of Women and the Impact of Women of Color on Public Policy

September 19, 2018

Veronica Cool, Founder and Managing Director, Cool and Associates
Serena Fong, Vice President, Strategic Engagement, Catalyst
Janice Mathis, Executive Director, National Council of Negro Women
Elsie L. Scott, Founding Director of the Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center, Howard University
Moderated by Noemi Crespo Rice, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, Johns Hopkins SAIS
Opening remarks by Chiedo Nwankwor, Visiting Research Associate and Adjunct Lecturer, Johns Hopkins SAIS

As part of Johns Hopkins SAIS Diversity Week, the university hosted a panel of accomplished women of color to discuss current issues on race in America. Chiedo Nwankwor set the scene by providing the opening remarks for the panel. She highlighted some of issues that women of color encounter within the political sphere.

During the discussion, each woman offered a brief background of their professional careers and then addressed questions related to the changing demographics of the US population, the workplace obstacles faced by women of color, and the efforts allies can make to ensure a diverse workplace.

Veronica Cool noted that while the Hispanic population is growing, many members often lack access to social capital. While many of them are succeeding at opening small businesses, it is harder for them to do so in the United States.

Serena Fong highlighted policy trends within the government that address pay equity for women. Fong believes that at the state and local levels in the US, there are steps being taken to ensure pay transparency and lessen the wage gap, including state legislative efforts to ban employers from basing salaries on an employee’s previous income level.

Janice Mathis discussed how environmental health disparities are impacting communities with large groups of minorities. Mathis discussed efforts in Flint, Michigan as a place where, public policy, economics, and racism had combined to pose especially difficult challenges.

Elsie L. Scott spoke about why politicians are going to have to earn the votes of women of color, rather than just expect them. She recalled that a study, conducted annually, normally showed that black women primarily cared about heath care. However, the latest survey revealed that more and more black women are voting according to their concerns about hate crimes, racism, and criminal justice.

The women ended the conversation by sharing their views on the #MeToo movement and answering questions from the audience about fighting the pay gap and how to overcome particular cultural norms regarding the role of women.

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