In recognition of Women’s History Month and the 65th anniversary of the New Brunswick-based American Conference on Diversity’s social-justice work in New Jersey, we asked women statewide to share their definitions of gender equality. This is a tribute to all of the Garden State women whose unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion has proved invaluable to our state and society.

“The legacy of the struggles for gender equality and the power to influence change is documented and lived out in the lives of women today. It’s the power among us that is undeniable and speaks to the need for our voices, perspectives, innovation, and leadership to be represented at all decision making tables.”

--Elizabeth Williams-Riley, President and CEO, American Conference on Diversity

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ON EARNINGS: DID YOU KNOW? Full-time working women in New Jersey earned only 83.4% of the median weekly earnings of their male counterparts (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011).

 

“Gender equality is a place where the unique perspectives and strengths of all people -- regardless of gender or gender identity -- are fully embraced and valued. It is the throwing away of gender archetypes and stereotypes, and inviting people to show up authentically every day. That’s nirvana.”

--Michele C. Meyer-Shipp, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Prudential Financial Inc.

 

ON HEALTH: DID YOU KNOW? Four out of five women living with HIV/AIDS in New Jersey are from underrepresented groups (NJ Dept. of Health and Senior Services).

 

“Gender equality means the absolute right to pursue my heart’s and spirit’s desire to be who I am on the inside and on the outside. It means the ability to fail or succeed without guilt, reproach, or judgment. Gender equality means respect, acknowledgment, and celebration for every part of me that makes me a boundless woman of faith, a Woman of God.”

--Camelia M. Valdes, Esq., the first Latina county prosecutor in New Jersey and the first woman prosecutor in Passaic County

 

ON VOTING RIGHTS: DID YOU KNOW? The 1776 New Jersey State Constitution gave the vote to “all inhabitants” who had a certain level of wealth. This included unmarried women and Black residents; married women were excluded because they could not own property separately from their husbands.

 

“To me, gender equality means that a smart, assertive woman is seen as just that -- and not as a bitch.”

--Dr. Khyati Y. Joshi, Associate Professor, School of Education, Fairleigh Dickinson University and a featured presenter at the American Conference on Diversity 8th Annual Summer Educators’ Institute

 

ON POLITICS: DID YOU KNOW? 29.2 percent of the New Jersey legislature is composed of women, the 10th largest percent in the U.S. (Center for the American Woman and Politics at Rutgers University).

 

“As a female I was told to believe in my dreams and make them a reality. Nothing less would be acceptable. Those words of wisdom came from the women in my life, my grandmothers and mother. Those words were passed onto my daughters. I believe words speak to gender equally.”

--Alyce Parker, Vice Chair, American Conference on Diversity Atlantic County Chapter

 

ON BUSINESS OWNERSHIP: DID YOU KNOW? There are an estimated 225,200 women-owned businesses in New Jersey, ranking it the 11th most populous state nationwide (The State of Women-Owned Business Report).

 

What does gender equality mean to you? Please share your thoughts. Send a 60-second “Defining Diversity Moment” video clip or email your reflections in 100 words or less to Pam@AmericanConferenceonDiversity.org to help us celebrate our 65th year of valuing diversity, educating leaders, and promoting respect throughout New Jersey.