Las Vegas Review-Journal: Pay parity for women stressed at forum

By Yesenia Amaro

Elicea Monte is eager to improve herself as a woman, as a mother and as an employee.

The 44-year-old was recently promoted to supervisor after having worked as a housekeeper for seven years at the Bellagio resort.

Her employer will also pay for her to get her high school equivalency and for her to pursue a college degree after that.

“I’m not stopping,” the single mother of four said Friday.

Monte was one of three women who joined Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Friday for a forum on how women can succeed.

The event’s message was that although women have broken many barriers, more work must be done toward women’s equality.

Titus and Pelosi supported equal pay for women and an increase in the minimum wage. They also talked about the need for women to be able to balance work and family.

It took more than 70 years for women to earn the right to vote, Pelosi said, and that was more than 90 years ago. There’s still more to do, she added.

For example, women in Nevada make 85 cents for every dollar a man makes, according to 2013 statistics from the Center for American Progress Action Fund based in Washington, D.C.

Hispanic women in Nevada fare even worse, making only 53 cents for every dollar a white male makes.

Nationwide on average, women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, and they represent nearly two-thirds of the minimum wage workers.

“The fact that there’s no equal pay now, it’s ridiculous,” said Sarah Lowe, who is part of the cast of “Jersey Boys” and was on the panel Friday.

Pelosi shared the story of a bus driver who would see many mothers on curbs with tears in their eyes because they were putting a sick child on the school bus. Those women were minimum-wage workers who couldn’t afford to stay home with their ill children.

“If they do it once or twice a month, they might not even have a job,” she said.

Federal legislation, including the Paycheck Fairness Act of 2014, would help improve women’s equality. Two other bills involve family and medical leave and child care affordability.

When a woman succeeds others benefit, Titus said. “It not only affects the women and their children, but our community and our country’s economy.”

It took time for Monte to learn that her employer would pay for her education.

“I was afraid, embarrassed to say that I was a single mother with four kids and always working; I didn’t have a degree.”

She is grateful for benefits her employer provides. Monte can even stay home without losing pay when her 14-year-old son, who has Down syndrome, is ill.

“I have that opportunity that not many women have,” she said.

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