The League of Women Voters of Miami-Dade County and the Miami-Dade County Commission for Women gave Carrie P. Meek an engraved glass vase with 19 flowers as a gift during an event, which also commemorated the 99th anniversary of the signing of the19th Amendment.
At the Women’s Park in Doral, the Women’s Equality Day celebration featured the issuing of two county proclamations and former Congresswoman and Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Gwen Graham before Meek received her gifts and thanked women and girls.
“If not for you, I would not have received this honor,” Meek said. “Today, it is a great privilege for me to be honored.”
Sharon Kendrick-Johnson, chairwoman of the Miami-Dade Commission for Women, said the group was honoring Meek because of her career.
“She’s an inspiration to so many women in elected office,” Kendrick-Johnson said.
Meek is a former congresswoman, state senator and state House representative and is a trailblazer to many people in public service.
Meek was elected to Congress in 1992 when she was 66.
She lobbied to earn a seat on the House Appropriations Committee, rare for a first-term member of Congress. While on the committee, Meek sought federal relief for areas of Florida damaged by Hurricane Andrew.
Meek also sought to expand federal programs for job creation and provide initiatives for Black-owned businesses. Meek wrote a modification of Social Security laws to cover household workers.
Meek worked to extend U.S. residence for Haitian immigrants and refugees excluded from two 1997 bills addressing Central American immigration. She persevered to obtain accurate census counts in then-district 17 by giving a way for welfare recipients who knew their poor, undercounted neighborhoods could work temporarily for the U.S. Census Bureau without losing their benefits.
“All the women in this room, you paved the way for all of us - young and old,” Graham said.
Also, during the ceremony, the county issued proclamations announcing Women’s Equality Day and Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. Though smiles, pictures and congratulations were accepted, the gaps in equal pay and equity that still exist were acknowledged.
Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava is also running for mayor. Cava said the proclamations were to remind of the issues and there is an importance to the date regarding Black Women’s Equal Pay.
Black women still make 61 cents to the white man’s dollar. It takes Black women about one year and a half to earn what a white man earns in one year.
“They are educational and motivational,” Cava said. “To help people understand the income disparity. They showcase how long it takes to reach the equivalency.”
August 22 is the day Black women make in one year plus 235 days – January to December, then to August 22 – what a white man makes in 365 days.
“We moved the needle a little bit, it needs to be moved a lot more,” said Marie Woodson, State House candidate for District 101.
The pay inequity still exists 56 years removed from 1963, the year former President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, aimed at abolishing wage disparity based on gender.
Women overall still make 82 cents to the white man’s dollar.
Cava, running for county mayor, said the commission is the first to adopt the UN convention to end discrimination and has passed legislation for women to enforce pay equity and inform women released from prison.
As women are released from county prison, they are given brochures and resources , and phone numbers to rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, restraining order assistance, immigration legal services and mental health agencies.
All businesses that work with county government must sign pay-equity agreements, “So County taxpayer money isn’t being used to perpetuate pay discrimination,” Cava said.
Poor job placement of women in growing industries with higher pay is one of the reasons for pay inequity, according to Woodson.
Woodson said women fare much worse in the fields of science, technology engineering and math.
Lucia Baez is a candidate for Miami-Dade County School Board’s 3rd district. She said students win when women and parents vote.
Baez said science, technology, engineering, arts and math should be available and funded for girls to take those classes.
“STEAM needs to be opened up. There is a push to encourage disciplines to work together. We need resources. We need to back it up.”
Gender stereotypes still exist.
“They are dangerous for young women,” Baez said. “It seeps into our culture, our education. Stereotypes need to be broken.”
Baez said two ways of doing so are to encourage girls to envision themselves in those fields and to actually see people who are successful in those fields.
Mara Zapata, candidate for the school board’s 5th district, said the gender of teachers is why the salaries are so low.
“If it were male dominated it would be not be so low,” Zapata said.
Zapata said it is definitely fair to say pay inequity is reflected in teacher pay.