By Vicki Hyatt
The Mountaineer, Waynesville, N.C.
Speaking to a packed house in the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center on Thursday, activist and women’s rights leader Gloria Steinem told the crowd the quest for equality is not over, but much progress had been made.
Steinem was on the Western Carolina University campus as part of a program examining the lessons and legacies of the 1960s.
“All issues of the 1960s now really have the majority support,” Steinem said. “The racial and ethnic composition of our country is changing dramatically, and women, though not equal in the labor force, are half of it. There have been enough changes so the handwriting is on the wall, so to say.”
“Is the battle over?” she asked. “No, not by a long shot.”
The soft-spoken Steinem said she wanted to create a conversational atmosphere, which is how she said the ideas of the ’60s all began — with people sitting in a circle and exchanging ideas.
After the hour-long speech, primarily focusing on equal pay for equal work for all, domestic violence and the role of women in society through the years, Steinem spent about 45 minutes listening to concerns of audience members and addressing their questions.
When the women’s movement began, women were earning 59 cents on the dollar for doing the same type of work as men, she told the crowd. Now the ratio is 77 cents on the dollar. Women with a bachelor’s degree will earn one-third less than their male counterpart, ticking off several examples.
“Women will earn $1 to $2 million less in their lifetime,” she said. “The same is true for people of color. Equal pay for equal work would be the best economic stimulus there is for this country and it would reduce the tax burden because the money used for safety net programs would go down.”