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Leaning In and Getting Paid? Gender Equity in The Workplace; 46th Anniversary Celebration of C.A.M.E.O. (Cleveland American Middle East Organization)

IMG_1301 On Friday, May 20th, we went to a panel discussion at the City Club titled "Leaning In and Getting Paid? Gender Equity in the Workplace" featuring Professor Diane Bergeron, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Organizational Behavior, Weatherhead School of Management at CWRU; Ms. Priyanka Chaudhry, Partner, Tax Services at Ernst & Young; and Ohio State Representative Kathleen Clyde (75th district). The discussion was moderated by Mr. Maxie C. Jackson, III, Station Manager at 90.3 WCPN ideastream.

 When we arrived, we talked to Ms. Terri Bradford Eason, Director of Gift Planning, for the Cleveland Foundation. Ms. Eason told us to be sure to thank Ms. Margaret W. Wong for her support of the Philanthropy Summit which took place in April. We also enjoyed talking to Professor Heather Hogan, recently retired who taught a course on modern Russian history. We reviewed the current situation in Russia in light of the past.

IMG_1306As for the program, it was introduced by Ms. Makela Hayford, an intern at the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women who received the 2016 Undergraduate Student Achievement Award. Ms. Hayford said that some conditions for women have improved but our society has quite a ways still to go. Ms. Hayford said that she was proud to be involved in the Center because her experience there empowered her "to thrive and to grow." For example, next year IMG_1299she will be the president of the African-American society at CWRU, a position that she would not be assuming if it hadn't been for what she acquired by working at the Center.

 The discussion started and the panel soon agreed that pay equity for men and women was a very important issue that must be dealt with because according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research on a national level white women made $.79 for every dollar earned by men. The stats were even grimmer for women of color because African-American women earned only $.64 and for Latino women it was $.56. Additional stats were cited that showed that even when taking the most obvious factors like education and experience into consideration, there was still a $.07 differential in the salaries of men and women which adds up $600,000.00 in lifetime earnings. Another point that was made was that some professions that attract mostly women (i.e. the helping professions) pay considerably less than a traditionally male-dominated profession like engineering although both require the same amounts of education and training.

 In the course of the panel discussion and the Q & A that followed, some suggestions to help remedy the problem included training managers to be aware of unconscious gender/racial bias; more women in executive management positions; the promotion of a more diverse work force; and the need for more mentoring and career sponsorship for women very possibly by men.

 Ohio State Rep. Clyde discussed HB 330 otherwise known as the "Ohio Equal Pay Act" that she introduced with Ohio State Rep. Stephanie Howse. Its description on the Minority Caucus blog shows that it requires:

 1. State and local governments to determine the value of comparable worth across job categories and to eliminate lower pay that is sometimes associated with "women's work." Value of the work is measured across job categories as a composite of the skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions normally required in the performance of the work (such a measure in Minnesota caused women's wages to increase by 9% after it was implemented).

 2. Businesses that receive state contracts or state economic incentive funds to be certified with an Equal Pay Certificate indicating that women employees at the company have access to the same opportunities and pay as their male counterparts as well as information from the company about how their salaries compare with male employees.

 3. It prohibits retaliation against employees in any employment actions-such as hiring, firing and promotion decisions-for sharing salary information.

During the Q and A, we asked if there anyone on the panel had any information about the wages of women who have immigrated to the United States from another country and culture but unfortunately no one did.

The discussion ended with Mr. Johnson, the moderator saying, "we have a lot of work to do, folks."

A more hopeful note was the conversation that we had afterwards with Ms. Chaudhry about how her company upgraded its maternity and paternity leave policies to 16 weeks in both cases. It used to be 12 weeks for maternity and 6 weeks for paternity. Ms. Chaudhry said that this was working out quite well and was a big morale booster.

Our other event for Friday was the 46th Anniversary Celebration of C.A.M.E.O. (Cleveland American Middle East Organization) held at the St. Elias Cultural Center in Brooklyn.

 In addition to ourselves, this event was attended by Ms. Sara Elaqad, Mr. Francis Fungsang, and Mr. George Koussa all from the office of Margaret W. Wong and Associates. We, ourselves, shared a table with Ms. Sherrie Miday, candidate for Judge of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court; Ms. Tonya R. Jones, candidate for Judge of the Cuyahoga County Domestic IMG_1319Relations Court, and her husband, former Cleveland City Councilman Joe Jones; our Mr. Koussa and his wife, Liliana; and Mr. Majeed Makhlouf, former law director of Cuyahoga County.

The master of ceremonies was Mr. Abby Mina, the Past President of C.A.M.E.O. He said that if the organization could last for 46 then it must have something to offer. For him, two of these things were credibility and transparency. It encourages those who immigrate to the United States to become responsible voters after they become citizens.

After dinner, Mr. Pierre Bejjani, the current President of CAMEO, acknowledged all of the elected officials who were there and the list was quite long. These included Mayor Katherine Gallagher of Brooklyn; Mayor Richard Dell'Aquila of Seven Hills; Cuyahoga County Councilpersons Dave Greenspan and Dale Miller; Cleveland City Councilperson Brian Cummins; and various jurists (past and present) like Patrick Fischer (Ohio SupremeIMG_1314 Court candidate), Diane Palos, Pamela Barker, Michael Sliwinski, Diane Karpinski, Marilyn Cassidy, Joan Synenberg, Ralph Perk, Jr. and Janet Rath Colaluca.

 Then Mr. Bejjani introduced Mr. Bo Khourshad, a talk show host from Kuwait who was visiting Cleveland. Mr. Khourshad said that he loved being here. He clowned around a little bit and said, "Pierre, you're my man." Mr. Bejjani then called up theVery Father Andrew Harmon to introduce Mr. Fred Bourjaily, 2nd Vice President of C.A.M.E.O. and one of the two people who was honored at this affair for his contributions to C.A.M.E.O. and the Northeast Ohio community.  Fr. Harmon shared with us how much Mr. Bourjaily has contributed to the church community of St. Matthew Evangelist Antiochian Orthodox Church. Fr. Harmon said the Mr. Bourjaily's work for C.A.M.E.O. was also "integral."

 Mr. Bejjani said that Mr. Bourjaily's award was way past due.

 At this time Mayor Dell'Aquila came forward with another tribute for Mr. Bourjaily who he has known since they were attended high school together 46 years ago.

IMG_1309 There were also citations from several other political leaders like Governor Kasich for Mr. Bourjaily who said that he didn't expect to receive so many recognitions but he was very grateful for them and thanked all of the attendees for being there. The second honoree was Dr. James Zogby, the Founder and President of the Arab American Institute (AAI) which is a Washington, D.C.-based organization which serves as the political and policy research arm of the Arab American community. Our Ms. Sara Elaqad's sister is doing an internship with this organization. Dr. Zogby was introduced by Mr. Mina who noted his lengthy list of accomplishments. To be sure, other elected officials also sent tributes.

 In accepting his honor, Dr. Zogby praised C.A.M.E.O. as an example of what can be accomplished when partisan and religious differences are set aside. He also talked about how he would not be in the place that he is at this time if he had not been mentored by several people of prominence and so he urged us all to do the same for promising young people. He specifically talked about a young man from the Middle East who was in danger of being deported but the AAI stepped in and gave him a position and worked things out so he could remain in the U.S. As a result of this intervention, the young man flourished and is now the head of an important immigrant rights organization.IMG_1317

 Later, Dr. Zogby took part in a Q and A in which he said that conditions in the Middle East were particularly volatile at this time and he didn't see things getting that much better in the short run. But a long-term solution must involve both Iran and Saudi Arabia. Dr. Zogby said that he would like to see someone develop a "framework for stability" there the way the U.S. did in Europe after World War II.

 As for the refugee situation, Dr. Zogby said that it keeps him awake at night. No one in Europe seems to know how to deal with it which is resulting in the formation of several reactionary political parties. He believed that someone should call for an international summit regarding the refugee situation. He went on to predict that by 2036 there will be one million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon due to the birth rate.

 He concluded by saying that he would like for the next U.S. President to be a person who has a vision of what things will be like 20 years into the future.

 During his closing remarks, Mr. Bejjani praised both Dr. Zogby and Mr. Bourjaily as two outstanding individuals who "have paved the road for all of us" due to their inspiration. As a result, he said that we are looking forward to a bright future in terms of teaching others about our own culture and building bridges between other cultures.


Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC


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