YWCA recognizes 'Breaking the Glass Ceiling' achievements
Wells Fargo was named Company of the Year by the Bethlehem YWCA at its second annual "Breaking the Glass Ceiling" Gala, held recently to honor businesses and organizations that are dedicated to equalizing pay and promotion opportunities for women, minorities and persons with disabilities.
Four other recipients honored at the gala were the Bethlehem Housing Authority, First Generation, Services for Children and Wolper Information Services. Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley, Hosfeld Insurance and Habitat for Humanity of the Lehigh Valley received honorable mentions.
The keynote speaker for the evening was Lilly Ledbetter, the namesake of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 – the first bill President Barack Obama signed into law. She said the law, which makes it easier for women to fight pay discrimination, was the culmination of her own nine-year battle for equal pay as a supervisor at a Goodyear plant in Alabama. For 19 years, she received only half the salary of men who were doing exactly the same job.
She sued Goodyear, won a $3 million settlement from the jury that the judge reduced to $150,000, and then lost everything when the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the company on appeal. After the decision, legal groups joined Republicans and Democrats to introduce and pass the pay bill.
Ledbetter told the more than 100 gala attendees at Lehigh University's Mountaintop Campus that better salaries for women provide more money for families so children eat better and get better educations. "This isn't just a women's issue. It belongs to men, states and the nation."
Noting that 90 percent of senior women outlive their spouses an average of 10 years, she said low pay for working women results low pensions and Social Security when they can no longer work. "It is a national epidemic. We have a better country than this."
The evening's awards were presented by Michelle Chrin and Gladys Wiles, board members who came up with the "Breaking the Glass Ceiling" Gala idea last year to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the Bethlehem YWCA. The Company of the Year Award was accepted by Laura Haffner, community bank president of Wells Fargo, a company where women make up 60 percent of the workforce, and 42 percent of its senior managers and executives. In the Lehigh Valley, more than 74 percent of its bank managers are women, and 82 percent are racially/ethnically diverse or female.
Bethlehem Housing Authority's Empowerment Advocate Award was presented to Clara Kendy, who broke the glass ceiling in 2003 when she became the agency's first female executive director. Today, 40 percent of the employees are minorities. In addition, the authority provides monetary support for after-school and summer programs for children and teens.
First Generation, an integrated marketing and communications agency, was recognized with the Community Leadership Award for its empowerment of women and persons with disabilities. Bill Carmody, a service-disabled military veteran and founder of First Generation, accepted the award.
The Diversity Leadership Award went to Wolper Information Services, a small business that provides subscription management services to corporations, public libraries, academic and medical institutions and government agencies. Women make up 85 percent of its employee base and 71 percent of its management team. Adrian Shanker, special projects manager at the LGBT-owned enterprise, said 38 percent of its workers are over the age of 50, and 15 percent are at 60 or more years of age.
Community Services for Children was recognized with the Women's Leadership Award for its dedication to breaking the glass ceiling for female employees. Women make up 96 percent of the staff, with 40 percent being racially or ethnically diverse. Of all the women in the workforce, 96 percent are in management positions. Accepting the award was Jane Ervine.