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Santa Clara County Office of Women’s Policy Rides #MeToo Momentum

Women’s March San Jose and the Office of Women’s Policy

The recent Women’s March and Rally in San Jose was a joyful celebration of women’s surging advocacy in the wake of the #MeToo movement, and a demand for concrete change.

Santa Clara County has focused on the empowerment of women and girls for a very long time, and its Office of Women’s Policy (OWP) is calling on women to step up and get involved as never before, to build on the momentum of this opportune moment.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Santa Clara County Office of Women’s Policy, founded in 1998. The OWP works on issues critical to women’s everyday lives, through research, programs and policy advocacy. Working closely with stakeholders in the community as well as women-led civic groups, OWP focuses on four main policy tracks:

  • Women’s economic advancement: “We know when we address economics, everything else gets addressed as well,” says Deputy Director Carla Collins. Research shows that women earn just 79 cents for every dollar a man earns in the same or equivalent job, and the OWP has led the charge for equal pay in the county. The recent #MeToo revelations of gross workplace harassment starkly underline the office’s work on not just pay equity but also in developing family-friendly workplace policies.
  • Women and girls in the criminal justice system: The OWP recognizes that the needs, experiences, and outcomes of women and girls in the criminal justice system are different from the men’s. Collins recently headed up the organization of a successful national conference on how to address those differences. “We want to always be sure to ask in decision-making: How is this impacting women and girls?” Collins says.
  • Women’s political leadership. Santa Clara County no longer holds the distinction of having the highest concentration of women in policy-making government positions, as it did in the 1980s. Developing a pipeline to elected office is critical. “We work very hard to bring more women and girls to the tables of decision-making at all levels,” Collins says.
  • Gender-based violence: OWP has long worked to develop strategic efforts to stem “epidemic” domestic violence, human trafficking and sexual assault, says Collins. “We want everyone to be safe at home, at school, and in their workplace, especially women and girls. We all must feel safe.”

Big changes at Office of Women’s Policy

Along with celebrating its 20th anniversary, OWP is on the cusp of other big changes. Just as the 20,000-strong Women’s March 2018 was concluding, OWP was preparing to welcome a new director, Protima Pandey. Seven-year staff member Collins has been promoted to deputy director.

Pandey was until recently the managing attorney of Bay Area Legal Aid’s San Mateo County office and was the regional counsel for immigration for that program. She starts at OWP just as the staff is expected to double to 14, thanks to an anticipated increase in the office’s budget.

First, they marched; now they’ll run

In yet another sign of OWP’s impact and presence within the advocacy community, one of the office’s newest staffers was selected as the second speaker at the rally that capped the recent march on a gorgeous winter afternoon.

Ketzel Gomez — Chicana, indigenous leader and community organizer — went straight to the heart of what seemed to be on the collective mind of the throng: getting involved with those working to turn momentum into political power.

“There’s no greater moment,” she said, for women to exercise their power.  “We are leaders, and we have the power to effectuate change. The moment is now. Get involved, get registered to vote, and vote. And if you can’t vote, find people that can and make sure they vote in every election.”

Want to know more about how to get involved?

Contact OWP, and they’ll guide you through the process or refer you to the specific organization dealing with your area of interest: immigrant rights, LGBTQ issues, equal opportunity, equity in the justice system, Commission on the Status of Women, and more.


Author: Chuck Carroll

February 1, 2018

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February 2018
Santa Clara County