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High School girls embrace means
to leapfrog glass ceiling

Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Pat Murphy

March 10, 2006

Regional high school girls facing adult decisions converged on Brooks Hall yesterday to pool experience and master moves of leapfrogging discrimination.

They shared and heard their possibilities can be boundless.

The glass ceiling may not be shattered but a parade of leaders who broke through anyway spotlighted how.

More than 50 resource organizations offered the means in workshops co-hosted by State Senator Jackie Speier and the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) National Center of Excellence in Women's Health.

California Senator Jackie Speier

"The young women who attend this conference are inspiring," said Dr. Nancy Milliken, director of the center and vice dean of UCSF School of Medicine.

"Every day they confront challenges and make complex choices that can impact their lives for years to come," Milliken continued.

"We believe they have a right to honest information and genuine support for the promise that is in their hearts, minds and bodies."

Workshop topics were selected by Youth Steering Committee participants aged sixteen to 18-years-old.

Discussion ranged from health care access, empowerment, reproductive rights, nutrition, self-defense and spontaneous dialogue.

Additionally, conference attendees voiced aspirations through an open mike session of word, performance, and poetry.

Speakers included San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White, San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong, sociologist Bertrice Berry, performance artist Aya de Leon, attorney and author Francine Ward; and Lateefah Simon, director of San Francisco District Attorney reentry programs.

A male joined the cavalcade, to not scattered whistles, in the person of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

Mayor Gavin Newsom

Newsom described the new world facing men.

"The world is passing us by and I say it again - women rule!" the mayor crescendoed.

"For all of the guys in this room you'd better listen up as well.

"Do you know today... American women are the world's number one economy? You represent the world's largest economy.

"In 85% of households in this country you are the ones paying the bills. You are the ones writing the checks.

"But this is what's so scary for a guy like me. Do you know that 94% of all furniture purchases - you decide, not guys like me. We have no influence.

"How about vacations? We don't even get to influence where we go on vacation. Eighty-nine percent of vacations are dictated and determined by women.

"When it comes to appliances... you know like stoves and refrigerators and things like that - you represent 88% of those decisions.

"But here's what's so ominous, because in the past the guys dominated these purchases - we dominated computer purchases but not anymore. A guy like me has no influence. Not anymore. Sixty-six percent of women determine purchase for computers at their homes.

"And worse - cars. Man that is a man's thing, right? Muscle cars. Not any longer. Sixty percent of all the cars you decide what we are purchasing.

"Women's incomes are rising exponentially faster than men's income.

"Bachelor's Degrees. You're getting more Bachelor's Degrees, more Ph.Ds than guys."

Newsom singled out areas where men still lead.

"But we still lead in some areas," the mayor added.

"We still lead in drug use. We still lead in absenteeism from school. We don't do our homework as often as you do.

"I jest but I am here to say we are proud of Jackie Speier, we're proud of our police chief, we're proud of our fire chief.

"We're proud to be the only city in the country with two significant leaders in public safety both represented by women.

"How many women run police departments in the United States or a fire department? It's happening here.

"How many cities have two state senators who both are women? How many have U.S. Senators both are women? How many have the leader of the Democratic Party Nancy Pelosi? How many have the District Attorney that is a woman?

"The best is yet to come - women and girls, you rule!"

San Francisco young women have greater diversity than in most American cities, a recent study by the San Francisco Commission and Department on the Status of women.

Some thirty-six percent are Asian, 36% white, 22% white, 22% Latina, 12% African American, six percent multi-racial, and one percent Pacific Islander.




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