(Daniel Ra/ Staff Photographer)

Panel on Women's Issues at Goldwin Smith Hall on 11/04/2019.

November 5, 2019

At Women’s Issues Panel, Political Experts Discuss the Wage Gap, Gender Discrimination

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“I don’t get to have a bad day,” said Sarah Isgur, former DOJ Director of Public Affairs and CNN Political Analyst. Isgur, along with three other high-powered women, delivered a Lewis Auditorium panel discussion on Monday tackling how women’s issues are gaining momentum in the 2020 election.

The all-female panel also featured founder and president of the Trailblazers PAC and a former state senate candidate Leslie Danks Burke, former Foreign Services Officer and Howard University’s International Affairs Program Director Patricia Scroggs and former United Nations senior campaign associate Gabriela Cristobal.

Speaking from her experience working in a male-dominated environment, Isgur discussed the reality of double standards and the difficulties in finding female mentors due to the lack of female senior staff or leadership.

“It’s a form of discrimination, but it’s much, much harder to solve with legislation,” Isgur said.

As a former Democratic candidate for Congress, Danks Burke spoke about how current tax policy discriminates against women: “There is no way under the current tax code to get child tax credits because my work is considered — let’s get real — ‘lady’s work,’” Danks Burke said.

One audience member asked how women can support each other, even across different political ideologies.

“It’s trying to bridge differences,” Scroggs said, urging people to learn to listen to others.

“Sometimes when we are debating people, we’re spending all the time in our heads thinking ‘I’ll tell you this and that,’ rather than saying, ‘Wow I want to hear what she is saying,’” she said.

Danks Burke also praised Cornellian women’s efforts in historically fighting against gender discrimination, citing the case of Zahorik, et al. v. Cornell University (1983) — where five former female faculty at Cornell sued the University for sex discrimination in tenure granting. The Cornell chapter of American Association of University Women joined the national organization in supporting the lawsuit, though the courts eventually ruled against the women, citing the subjectivity of hiring practices.

According to Danks Burke, the lawsuit opened up an important conversation.

The moderator also brought up topics such as pay inequality, gender and race discrimination, low voter turnout in primaries, difference in household responsibilities and value of labor between women and men.

Now, Danks Burke said, women “should…be able to know what [their] male peer makes in order to discover whether there is pay inequality.”

The panelists affirmed that women’s issues will most likely gain more attention as more women run for elected office and continue to support each other across political lines and in the workplace, and were optimistic that those issues will become increasingly relevant in the upcoming 2020 election.

The event was co-sponsored by the Panhellenic Council, the Andrew Goodman Foundation and Cornell Political Union.