2015 Annual Gala Luncheon Play-By-Play | Equal Rights Advocates
Fighting for Women's Equality

2015 Annual Gala Luncheon Play-By-Play

June 15, 2015 | by
2015 keynote speaker Patricia Arquette

2015 keynote speaker Patricia Arquette

The staff and board of Equal Rights Advocates were honored to welcome 1,200 guests to the annual gala luncheon. The event took place on June 11, 2015, at the Marriott Marquis in San Francisco. Below, a play-by-play of the day’s events, compiled by ERA’s volunteer social media team. You can view photos of the event, too.

11:55am Guests took their seats to the lively sounds of the Montclair Women’s Jazz Ensemble, led by ERA client Ellen Seeling.

12pm Local icon and Peabody award winner Pam Moore, of KRON 4, opened the luncheon celebrating 41 years of tremendous work by Equal Rights Advocates.. She offered special thanks to the gracious Marriott staff for their work here today, including UNITE HERE Local 2 and the distinguished members of the judiciary and the legislators who attended the luncheon. Chair of ERA’s Board of Directors Ghada Saliba Malouf thanked the event sponsors and their leaders for their ongoing support of ERA. 

To enthusiastic applause, Saliba-Malouf congratulated the day’s honorees. Farella, Braun + Martel was recognized as this year’s pro bono champion for its public interest work, including its contributions to ERA’s Let Her Work project. The Let Her Work Project helps women with criminal backgrounds gain employment and support themselves and their families.

12:10pm ERA’s three Gender Justice Honorees were announced: Marci Rubin, Phil Bokovoy, and The Stronger California Advocates Network. Marci Rubin is a former Chair of the ERA Board and a treasured advisor. She has promoted diversity in the legal profession for her entire career and most recently has had a vital role as leader of the California Minority Council Program. Phil Bokovoy spent years as a leader at the Shanti Project to ensure the dignity and care of those in our community living with HIV/AIDs and other chronic illnesses. The Stronger California Advocates Network is a coalition of 27 organizations which have partnered with ERA and legislative leaders like Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and Assemblymember Bill Dodd to launch California’s first comprehensive women’s economic security policy agenda.

12:15pm Saliba-Malouf introduced the 2015 ERA Champion of Justice Honoree, student activist group BHS Stop Harassing. This stellar group of students from Berkeley High School has been fighting against sexual harassment at their school to help make our schools safe enough for girls and boys to thrive. A short film on BHS Stop Harassing moved the audience with these girls’ inspiring story.

12:25pm: Moore had the talented and lyrical Montclair Women’s Big Band take us into another impressive musical interlude with the added context of a story about the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. This New York institution has not had a single woman as a permanent member in its entire 28 year history. ERA demanded that Jazz at Lincoln Center post job ads and hold blind auditions before a committee – practices which have been proven to increase the representation of women in musical ensembles. Lincoln Center has recently announced that it will post positions and hold blind auditions. 

12:30pm ERA’s Executive Director Noreen Farrell took the stage with Moore voicing her appreciation for Farrell’s thoughtfulness, tenacity and contagious commitment to justice. Farrell spoke of a feeling of unstoppable momentum in the movement.

Farrell noted that many equality issues start in school. Schools that don’t stop harassment teach girls to expect less from their education. On the education forefront, Farrell described how ERA has recently investigated 116 California school districts to unearth how Title IX compliance measures up to the law. ERA will be releasing the final report on those school districts next week. The report includes an inspiring game plan to improve gender equality in schools.

When looking toward the immediate future, Farrell spoke of the “mother of all plans,” a new legislative vision for California called the Stronger California Legislative Agenda. ERA thanked California Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and Assemblymember Bill Dodd for their unwavering support and celebrated the success of the passage of a key equal pay bill through the California State Senate with bi-partisan support. If the bill becomes law, California will have the strongest equal pay laws in the nation.

Farrell also celebrated ERA’s accomplishments this year in helping a wide range of individual clients from 40,000 women restaurant workers across the country to women shipyard workers in VA and gold miners in Alaska. Farrell spoke of how ERA is fighting for women across the country so that the price of a paycheck isn’t sexual harassment or racial slurs. ERA has also launched a national campaign for Equal Pay Day. They have set their sights on closing the gender wage gap in years, not decades. Farrell pointed out women drive our economy. Today, more households than ever are supported by a woman breadwinner, and the gender pay gap severely impacts them. Farrell described how “Fair pay fever has hit!” 

1pm ERA favorite, Dru Ramey, then took the stage to reinforce the need for economic support and introduce Arquette. Ramey is on ERA’s Board of Directors and is Dean Emeritus at Golden Gate School of Law. She is also former head of the Bar Association of San Francisco and the National Association of Women Judges. Ramey acted as Co-Chair of this year’s luncheon with ERA Board Member Kristen Palumbo and sits as the Chair of ERA’s distinguished Honorary Steering Committee. 

Ramey  admitted she was star-struck when asked to introduce Patricia Arquette, Ramey described how Arquette is the first woman to have a lead in a CSI franchise series – CSI Cyber –  and the amazing performance she gave in her 12 year role in blockbuster Boyhood. Her extraordinary portrayal of a working mother in Boyhood led to that amazing moment at the Oscars when Patricia Arquette seized her opportunity to inset the imperative for pay equality into public discourse.

1:30pm Patricia Arquette took the stage to a joyous standing ovation. She won over the hearts of all the Amy Schumer fans in the audience when she said she considered opening with excerpts from a skit she recently did for Inside Amy Schumer, but we understood that the family-friendly nature of that event made a synopsis more appropriate than direct quotes. The synopsis was as follows: 1) Women over 40 are fabulous. 2) All of us have to stand up and fight back at the notion that our value is that we look a certain way or conform to stereotypes. On a more serious note, Arquette reminded us that there are 70 million women in the U.S. living in poverty or on the brink of it. The poverty rate for women would be cut in half if they were just getting paid their fair wage, Arquette told us.

Arquette remembered those days when she felt helpless and scared.

“Even though I played a medium on T.V., I didn’t see any of this coming. In 2015, I didn’t think there would be a need for me to raise my voice to support pay equality,” she said.

At the Oscars, Arquette knew she had a 1 in 5 shot of winning and if she won, she wanted to use her moment to try and change the experience of millions of women like her character in Boyhood. “I wanted to reveal what was important to me. I am a human being who has integrity and cares about other human beings. I knew the speech would last for 90 seconds, 90 seconds that no one had to review or approve in advance. I thought, this is dangerous, and I didn’t tell anyone what I was going to say.”

Arquette said that she didn’t think of herself as a hero, instead, she thought of herself as a loudmouth. She said she hoped that male leaders  would stand up with women.

After Oscar night, Arquette decided if she was going to open her mouth, she would need to be ready. She began looking into organizations that promote gender equality, like ERA. She was honored to speak before the UN, highlighting how the gender wage gap affects women of color, lesbians, and transgender women. She also recalled getting to exchange jokes with David Letterman on equal pay. (Arquette also reminded us how rape kits still go unprocessed for years and how it is unacceptable that we made Afghanistan include gender equality in their constitution but we don’t have it in ours.)

She urged the audience to sign the Fair Pay Pledge and she thanked those who support laws that work to improve the rights of women.

“There’s no successful movement unless we unify. Equal pay is not a partisan issue,” she said.

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