Women’s History Month Kicks Off with Examination of Equality in the Workplace

The audience voiced “Amens” as charismatic leaders on stage gave fiery speeches, but this morning’s event at the Monte Carlo wasn’t a Sunday sermon. It was a Monday breakfast, hosted by MGM Resorts International, Vegas PBS and the Women’s Research Institute of Nevada, to coincide with the start of national Women’s History Month. A couple hundred Southern Nevada women (and a small handful of men) came to the March 4 event to hear a panel discuss workplace equality—or the lack thereof.

From the opening remarks at the Women’s Breakfast Club by MGM Executive Vice President Phyllis James, it was clear there’s a problem: “We’re nowhere near the tipping point of true gender equality in business,” she says, citing data indicating that women represent 60 percent of college graduates, but only 3 percent of Fortune 500 company CEOs. The panel focused on solutions, and a few themes emerged: the need to move beyond policy and into boardrooms; to develop diverse alternatives to “good old boy clubs;” and to foster a culture of women encouraging other women.

Panelist Erin Bilbray-Kohn, a political strategist who recently helped get Catherine Cortez Masto re-elected, drew applause with her remark about dropping the unrealistic Wonder Woman complex when balancing work and family.

“It’s important to learn to forgive yourself for not being perfect,” she says. “I had dirty dishes in the sink when I went to bed last night.”

It’s equally important to know your stuff—and to be able to rebut myth with fact—added Sylvia Lazos, a law professor at UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law. She was answering an audience question about how to deal with employers’ preconception that moms make less committed employees than dads. Harvard University president Lawrence Summers caused a stir when he made comments to that effect, but Lazos noted that research refutes such notions.

“Know the studies, and come back with them,” she says.