Santa Clara County leaders take action on gender inequality
Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez urged employers to make sure workers are being paid fairly at a rally on Latina Equal Pay Day, organized by the Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley, on Dec. 8, 2022. Photo by Loan-Anh Pham.

    Santa Clara County officials have approved landmark legislation to tackle gender inequality.

    The county Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) last week. CEDAW is a framework to gather data and implement gender-equitable practices in local government. Advocates said the move holds the county accountable for its commitment to gender equity for employees and residents.

    “When it comes to public institutions and cities and counties, everybody talks about… diversity, equity, inclusion, but very few of them have the actual proof that they’ve actually done what they say they’re doing,” Nancy Bremeau, co-founder of the CEDAW Challenge Team, told San José Spotlight. “It’s probably the most important women’s rights and women’s policy initiative that no one has ever heard of.”

    Bremeau said CEDAW examines gender discrimination while also looking at other factors like racism and ageism. The CEDAW Challenge Team works to implement its framework across the state and nationally. CEDAW is originally a United Nations treaty that has since been implemented in local governments.

    Benaifer Dastoor, chair of the county’s Commission on the Status of Women, said CEDAW highlights and tackles ongoing inequalities, including the pay gap as well as access to employment, housing and child care.

    “We always see this disparity and that is systemic. You see a disproportionate number of women impoverished and facing barriers,” Dastoor told San José Spotlight. “Despite (county) support, there’s still a lot of work. So then, how do we continue this work or bring it forward?”

    She said the first step is to gather data from various county departments on factors such as pay or hiring practices, review the reports and implement specialized plans for each office to address gender discrimination. Dastoor said CEDAW ensures the county has a regular, ongoing analysis of gender equality in the county’s budget and agencies. Implementing CEDAW will take four years, she added.

    Santa Clara County is only the fourth county in California to pass a permanent CEDAW ordinance, Bremeau said, joining San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego counties. Leaders previously adopted CEDAW as a resolution in 2017, which created a task force on gender equality.

    Vaughn Villaverde, director of advocacy at Asian Americans for Community Involvement, said gender inequality continues to affect Santa Clara County residents and overlaps with other inequalities. His group and other organizations wrote letters in support of CEDAW ahead of the meeting.

    “Unfortunately, we see the impacts of gender discrimination and its intersection with other social determinants all too often in our work in the community, and especially at AACI’s Asian Women’s Home shelter for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking,” Villaverde said. “It is critical that we as a community enact robust and comprehensive protections of these rights at the local level.”

    Bremeau said the goal is to encourage nearby counties, including Alameda County, to adopt CEDAW as well.

    “(CEDAW) provides a framework so that cities and counties can prove that yes, we are moving the needle and things are improving,” she said.

    Contact Loan-Anh Pham at [email protected] or follow @theLoanAnhLede on Twitter.

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