Gloria Steinem touts equal pay at Houston appearance

May. 1, 2013Houston Business Journal

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem spoke about financial equality to more than 750 guests Tuesday at the JW Marriott Hotel in Houston, part of The Women’s Resource of Greater Houston’s 22nd annual luncheon.

“Equal pay for women would be the single-greatest economic stimulus this country ever had,” Steinem told the crowd, saying equal pay would inject $200 billion into the economy. Women are unlikely to put the extra cash into a Swiss bank account, or invest in China, and would instead spend the money on themselves or their families in the U.S., Steinem predicted.

The event raised more than $220,000 for The Women’s Resource of Greater Houston, a nonprofit that provides free financial classes and research to low-income women and girls through its network of 150 volunteers. Last year, the organization had 6,400 participants in 39 ZIP codes.

“That’s what we do: We change people’s lives,” Rhonda Sands, president ofRegions Bank and chairwoman of the board of The Women’s Resource of Greater Houston, said in her opening remarks. Other powerhouse Houston female bankers in attendance wereAnnella Metoyer, Houston market president for Capital One and board member for the nonprofit, and Valerie Gibbs, Houston region president for Bank of Texas.

Steinem also talked about the pay gap between white women and women of color, as well as workplace segregation and the need to integrate men into female-dominated jobs so those occupations can be revalued and redefined.

In an interview after her speech, Steinem said she thinks patriarchy is the greatest challenge women face in the workforce today.

Steinem, writer and co-founder of Ms. Magazine and the National Women’s Political Caucus, participated in the first National Women’s Conference in 1977, which was held in Houston. Mayor Annise Parker, who introduced Steinem at the Tuesday luncheon, said she attended the conference as a college student and volunteer for the League of Women Voters. The two discussed having a plaque installed to commemorate the conference.

Parker also encouraged the crowd to contact their Texas representatives to support a bill that would curb payday loans, which some say lead to consumer debt.

“We have to raise the level of financial literacy in our community,” Parker told the crowd.

Other notable attendees included Houston councilwoman Ellen Cohen; Houston first lady Kathy Hubbard; and Sissy Farenthold, former state representative and 1972 nominee for vice president at the Democratic National Convention.

The Women’s Resource of Greater Houston’s 2014 luncheon will be held April 22 and feature speaker Carla Harris, managing director for Morgan Stanley. The event will honor Houston’s outstanding women in banking and financial services. Click here for more info.