Recap: ERA Virtual Gala 2020

“It is essential for the health of our world, our communities, and our nation that we all step into that strength, into that confidence...”

Megan Rapinoe, U.S. Women's National Soccer Team

On Nov. 13, 2020, Equal Rights Advocates’ 46th Annual Gala was held online for the first time ever, gathering 900+ gender justice supporters nationwide to celebrate everything we were able to accomplish together in 2020. Watch the event here.

We had a lot to celebrate. Against all odds, in 2020 we came together, stood our ground, made our voices were heard, and challenged sexist and racist systems in an unprecedented way.

Featured speakers included Megan Rapinoe, Anita Hill, Dolores Huerta, Congresswomen Barbara Lee and Lauren Underwood, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Molly Ford of Salesforce, ERA Executive Director Noreen Farrell and Deputy Director Delia Coleman, as well as ERA clients and staff.  See quotes from their speeches below. The event was MC’d by Renel Brooks-Moon.

The following 2020 Gender Justice Champions were honored and celebrated: Essential worker and ERA pregnancy discrimination client Candice Branner; ERA client and student survivor of sexual violence Virginia M.; Rebecca Berry, a pro bono attorney with our ENOUGH program, providing free legal support to student survivors; Legislative Champion Vice President-Elect Senator Kamala Harris; and ERA Board Chair Drucilla Ramey.

Here are highlights from the event:

Noreen Farrell

Noreen Farrell, Executive Director, Equal Rights Advocates

“This is a moment not unlike the one we were founded in in 1974, when we had to re-imagine schools and workplaces and all the spheres holding back women and girls.

We are at another tipping point in this country, and we have incredible momentum at our back from last week’s elections. And we need it, because we have civil and reproductive rights to call back, a democracy to defend.”

“We know that this pandemic has really exposed the unfinished business of our movement for communities of color, women and gender expansive people, and all workers. I think it’s these moments of really devastating clarity that has to inspire really bold and new visioning about all the systems that impact our lives.”

“If the last nine months has taught us one thing, it’s the recognition finally that women are essential to this economy and to this country, and that paid family leave, childcare, safe working conditions, a real commitment to Black Live Matter — these are non-negotiables in the vision that we’re pushing forward.”

“We have incredible wins to celebrate today, thanks to you and your support, that allows Equal Rights Advocates to do what we do best: defend rights, pass new laws, and build community power for gender, racial, and economic justice.”

“As we contemplate what’s happening across the country, let’s celebrate our community power. That really dictates what happens from here.

We are speaking. We are persisting. We are reclaiming our time. And we belong everywhere that decisions are made…. We do this together.”

Professor Anita Hill, ICON Honoree

I am absolutely thrilled to receive this ICON Award from Equal Rights Advocates. You have been great role models for my work. You’ve been wonderful collaborators. And I cannot think of any organization that I would feel more honored to be with. And I am especially, especially thrilled to be recognized along with the amazing Dolores Huerta, who is a role model for all of us and inspires us every day.”

Dolores Huerta

Dolores Huerta, ICON Honoree

“My younger son says, ‘Mom, you’re not an icon; you’re an “I can!”’ And I know the other recipients, like the wonderful and the great Anita Hill, are all also ‘I can’s. Of course, we know that we, as women, that’s what we have to be, and that’s what Equal Rights Advocates is all about — making sure that we as women can do the work that needs to be done.”

These women’s voices must guide us as we work to rebuild a more racially and gender-just world. — Delia Coleman, Deputy Director
Rebecca Berry

Rebecca Berry, Gender Justice Honoree: Pro Bono Network

“It is essential for organizations like Equal Rights Advocates to exist because the power dynamics have been so imbalanced over our history in terms of people who have gone through oppressive situations and who need support from attorneys, from people who can represent them and really show them the way and lead them to justice.”

“Coming forward with my own story of sexual violence, of experiencing that, is a way to show the world and to show even my clients as I do this work that they are not alone, and that we have a family in other survivors who are also stepping up to tell their stories.”

When we change, then our systems change. And it really does start with us.”

“What I went through, the lessons that I learned, all of it has come together so that I can be an activist for others, and really represent other folks who have gone through the same things. My purpose is to validate survivors. It is worth it for survivors to become a part of this community.”

“I dedicate this honor to the advocates who take up this mantle, and I also dedicate this to our brave clients. You all inspire me to keep going, even when the odds seem insurmountable. Every client that I’ve worked with has a special place in my heart, and I thank them for trusting me and others in this network with their stories. You are all amazing.”

Mehek Dhillon

“The ENOUGH pro bono program is essential for protecting the rights of students like me. Title IX laws and procedures are confusing and intimidating. So knowing that I have an army of pro bono attorneys to help me if I ever need them is so empowering and allows me to focus on what is truly important: my education.”

– Mehek Dhillon, ERA student supporter

Virginia M., Gender Justice Honoree: Emerging Leader

Virginia is an ERA client and a student survivor of sexual violence. Read about Virginia’s impact through her case.

“Coming forward with my story is important to me because I know so many other girls’ stories that haven’t been heard. I know that there’s a lot of other girls that have been through what I’ve been through and worse, that don’t have somebody they could go to. Saying your story to anybody is important. It’s important to get your justice.”

This has empowered me in a way that it has made me a stronger person. I feel like I’m less shy. I don’t feel defenseless. I don’t feel helpless.”

“I feel like it’s very essential for organizations like Equal Rights Advocates to exist because my family, we don’t have money. And they did everything for me. My parents didn’t know about lawyers, laws, Title IX. They really just gave my family a voice.”

“I found a team that believed in me and encouraged me to find out how strong I really am. I want people to think if she did it, I could do it.

Rep. Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee

“Health is essential. Safety is essential. Humanity is essential. Dignity is essential.”

“We can’t lose hope and it is so important to come together and celebrate our work and our progress in this fight.”

Rep. Lauren Underwood

Congresswoman Lauren Underwood

“Now more than ever, the health of all of us depends on each of us. This pandemic is disproportionately affecting women. These essential women need to be at the center of all of our decisions in Congress.

Candice Branner

Candice Branner, 2020 Gender Justice Champion

Candice is an ERA client and an essential worker (airport security) who experienced illegal pregnancy discrimination at work.

“As a mom with a son to raise, I want to be a small change in the world to make it a better place.”

“The primary fear before meeting Equal Rights Advocates was finding legal representation that would take on my case and even wondering if I had a case. Coming from where I come from, it’s very challenging to use your voice. Sometimes you can feel underrepresented. You can feel intimidated by certain situations. So the relationship starting with Equal Rights Advocates, it was the start of even knowing I had a voice.”

“It’s important for me to be an advocate for my son, to be an advocate for myself, to be able to stand up for the both of us.” 

I think it’s important for women to know they have a voice that needs to be heard… I hope to leave no woman behind.

Molly Ford, Salesforce

Molly Ford, Salesforce

“Strong future starts with equal opportunities in school. How girls, and how all kids are treated in the classroom and on the playing field shapes their expectations for what they deserve later in life. Including equal pay for equal work, gender and racial justice, and recognition that they are essential in the workforce and in this economy.”

“Equal Rights Advocates’ passion for a fair, more just world for everyone is why Salesforce is proud to support its work.”

Megan Rapinoe, Captain, U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team; Two-time World Cup Champion

“Each individual human life is essential, and each individual soul and their quality of life and their well-being.” 

“As I think about myself as a gay woman in this world, if this year has taught us anything at all, it is that every single one of us is deemed essential.”

“Not only is it essential for you to stay true to yourself, but it is essential for the health of our world, and our communities, and our nation that we all step into that strength, and into that confidence, and into that feeling that not only we’re essential for ourselves, but we’re essential for other people.”


Many thanks to our sponsors for supporting our work and making this event possible, including Salesforce, Morrison & Foerster, Wells Fargo, and the Louette Colombano Philanthropic Fund.

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