Group discusses gender equality at Venture Cafe

In honor of Women’s History Month, Venture Café Miami hosted a panel discussion Thursday on improving gender equality, one of 17 goals put out by the United Nations.

The panel, organized by the Miami chapter of the United Nations Association, included Vicki Lopez of VLL Consulting, Alexandra Figueredo, a member of the board of directors of the chapter and Maria Ilcheva of FIU. Cindy Makita of the Social Impact Movement moderated the panel.

The discussion began with the statistics on the state of gender equality in Miami.

“There are approximately 280,000 women in Miami Dade County who live in poverty,” Ilcheva said.

Ilcheva said, on average, women get paid 16 percent less than men.

“If you look at the highest paid occupations such as attorneys, engineers and architects the disparities are more significant. For attorneys the disparities are between 40 and 50 percent, 30 percent for engineers and 25 percent for women working in statics,” she said.

Lopez said women need to understand how the system works to help themselves.

“You have to learn how to advocate. Knowing your audience and understanding the history of the ordinances that haven’t been passed. Don’t take no for answer when dealing with government officials. It’s a slow process so keep trying until you have reached some common ground,” she said.

Figueredo, for her part, urged men to become allies in the empowerment of women and girls.

“Men should recognize when they need to take a step aside and let women advance, either it be in a company or an organization. I think it takes a lot of strength for men to be able to acknowledge that they are privileged and have the power to help others,” she said.