Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak urged her colleagues to adopt gender equality legislation accepted by most United Nations countries decades ago at a post-agenda meeting and public hearing on Tuesday.
The international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, or CEDAW, was adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly; the United State is one of six nations that has still not signed on to the treaty.
Two dozen cities have passed their own CEDAW-inspired resolutions and ordinances, including San Francisco, Cincinnati and Louisville.
“The legislation I introduced two weeks ago seeks to join cities across the country and world, to take women’s experiences into account in all areas of city life,” Rudiak said at a press conference Tuesday. “From the differences in our morning commutes to how we walk down the street, (from) how and why we take work leave to how we access city services.”
The proposed ordinance would mandate the creation of a Gender Equity Commission, charged with considering how city policies affect women and offering guidance to city departments.
Sarah Goodkind teaches sociology, social work and women’s studies at the University of Pittsburgh and said the ordinance provides a framework for for an intersectional analysis of gender equity in Pittsburgh.
“It allows us to examine issues of gender issue as they intersect with issues related to race and ethnicity, social class, nationality, sexuality, religion, age and ability,” she said.
Experts present at the event said poverty disproportionately affects women, particularly women of color.
Blayre Holmes, program manager for the Women and Girls Foundation, cited a recent Institute for Women's Policy Research report. Single moms headed 77 percent of Pittsburgh households living in poverty in 2015, she said.
And women make up the bulk of workers in low-wage occupations like childcare and retail, according to Jessie Ramey, director of the Women’s Institute at Chatham University.
“Here’s what that looks like in Pittsburgh: 68 percent of black girls under the age of 5 are living in poverty,” Ramey said. “That’s horrifying.”