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Arizona Foundation for Women still pursuing gender equality

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Controversy erupted when NY Times Executive Editor Jill Abrahamson was fired this week. Whether she was perceived as “pushy” or because she complained about unequal pay or both, the situation revealed that women still face glass ceilings. If corporate executives suffer from inequities, is it any wonder that the average Arizona woman faces incredible hurdles? The Arizona Foundation for Women (AFW) was founded 18 years ago to create a better life for Arizona’s women and children. On May 15, 2014, AFW addressed lingering challenges at its Annual Awards Luncheon at the Biltmore.

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Sobering statistics included the facts that Arizona ranks 45th in the country for women’s health coverage and 49th in pre-natal care, while 23% of Arizona women receive no pre-natal care, and 500,000 Arizona women live in poverty. This year, women in Arizona are actually earning less (82 cents compared to men’s $1) than last year (85 cents). Annually, AFW recognizes those who devote their lives to bettering lives of others.

Michelle King Robson, who founded EmpowHer and co-hosts HER Radio, received the Marilyn R. Seymann Founder’s Award. Robson described the importance of giving women tools to maintain their health and wellness, and that women can/should be empowered by gaining access to education and information.

Marilyn Carlson Nelson, former CEO of Carlson, the famous travel and hospitality company, received the Sandra Day O’Connor Lifetime Achievement Award. Her speech described how individuals (e.g., Queen of Sweden, Paul Newman, etc.) can influence governments and corporations to advocate for women. Nelson labels herself a “21st century abolitionist.” Her company—Carlson Travel—was the first hotel chain to provide training to employees how to identify human trafficking, creating an “army of eyes and ears to protect the world’s children.”

Also, Ambassador Swanee Hunt, whose mission is to achieve gender parity, received the Voice of Women Award. The luncheon, which was attended by O’Connor and hundreds of business and community leaders, used live and silent auctions, and donation incentives from Southwest Airlines to raise funds for programs, like the Sojourner Center and Arizona Women’s Education & Employment.

Using the analogy of a painter signing his/her finished artwork, Nelson asked everyone in the audience to ask, at the end of each day, “Is this a day I would sign my name to?” All Arizonans should be aware of and committed to signing their names to efforts to provide equal opportunity for women and children.