In the Service of Equality
Former member of the California State Assembly, and McCarthy Center Emeritus Board of Advisor, Betsy Butler, recently gave an interview in The Easy Reader as executive director of the California Women’s Law Center. She elaborates on the issues she’s working on, from advocating for assault and rape survivors, to gendered pay disparity. This interview have been edited for space and brevity. Read the full interview at: https://easyreadernews.com/betsy-butler-in-the-service-of-equality/
by Jeff Mitchell/ El Segundo News
Betsy Butler was elected in 2010 to represent the 53rd Assembly District in Sacramento. The following year, for legislation she authored on behalf of war veterans, she was named the 2011 Legislator of the Year by the Vietnam Veterans of America, In the same honor was bestowed on her by the American Veterans (AMVETS).
Also in 2012, following redistricting, Butler narrowly lost reelection to the 50th Assembly District, which included parts of the South Bay.
But Butler’s Sacramento work didn’t end.
As executive director of the California Women’s Law Center in El Segundo, she is spearheading two pending state bills, both authored by her close collaborator Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino.) Leyva is chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus.
One of the bills would eliminate the statute of limitations on rape. The second would prohibit non disclosure agreements in sexual assault, and sexual harassment settlements. Non disclosure agreements have been faulted for protecting repeat sexual offenders.
Since its founding in 1989, the California Women’s Law Center has served as an advocate for the legal protection of women and girls, with an emphasis on those who are low-income.
This focus has led to Butler to address the pay disparity between men and women. Women on average earn 80 cents for every dollar a man earns. In a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Butler wrote that Federal Title IX legislation led to a 17,000 percent increase in the number of girls playing high school soccer between the law’s enactment in 1972 and 1991, when the U.S. women won their first World Cup title.
But pay inequity between men and women remains largely unchanged.
“Some of these girls have grown up to be among the finest athletes in the world, and they are now in a position to demand another kind of gender parity: pay equality,” Butler wrote.
Over two dozen members of the U.S. Women’s National Team have filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, alleging they are paid less than their male counterparts, despite doing the same work and despite winning four World Cup championships and four Olympic gold medals.
“Pay inequality is familiar territory for female athletes. The road to ‘equal pay for equal work’ has been rocky not only for athletes but for working women across the country,” Butler wrote.
A key to pay equality is fostering mutual respect between the sexes, she said.
“Respect for one another – no matter your gender, your skin color, your religion or any other distinguishing characteristic – is learned early. I sense that the majority of today’s young men and women are more open-minded, less judgmental. I could be wrong about that, but I hope not,” Butler said.
While Butler said she is increasingly hopeful for the plight of women and girls — especially because of their growing interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Nevertheless, she said, the challenges ahead are not insignificant.
“There are so many unknowns ahead including climate change, women’s health and many global uncertainties. Will there be pay equity in their lifetime? The majority of today’s young people will reach their 80s, 90s, even 100 years of age. When I talk to young women I try to empower them to get involved in the issues they feel are most important because it’s their future. I tell them there’s no room for complacency,” Butler said.