The governor as a ladies’ man By Martha Hamilton Austin With the November election creeping up, Gov. Preston Smith plans to give the ladies a whirl with a high class tea party in Austin, Aug. 28-29. The Governor’s Conference on the Status of Women will discuss the problems of Texas women under the rather unsympathetic auspices of the state government. “We want a cross section of the women of Texas … women from all walks of life … from all across the state,” a member of the govenor’s staff avows. But a $5 admission fee seems to insure that some women’s groups won’t be heavily represented. The conference is an outgrowth of the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women, a group Smith appointed in January, 1970, as evidence of his concern. The list of 151 women can be broken into two types: wives of office holders and politicians and women who have achieved something on their own. On the roster, which Smith’s office hands out, many are listed by their husbands names, with their own names set secondarily in parenthesis. A former Miss America is listed as JACK ROBERTS, a young, earnest-looking staff assistant who is Smith’s lady liaison, says the conference will be attended by some 1,500 women. The commissioners have been asked to furnish the names of individuals and organizations that might be interested. Roberts says he does not know specifically if women’s liberation groups or Texas chapters of the National Organization of is incomplete, he adds, and an attempt will be made to include all concerned women’s groups. No attempt is being made, though, to deal with the barrier the $5 gate charge might pose to some of the women who are unhappy with their lot. The fee is as economical as it could be made, said Roberts, who is coordinating the planning. The money will cover the price of a luncheon at the Terrace Convention Center, printing and other costs. Since the commission is an advisory group, it receives no funds from the legislature. It has no legal powers or status. “We have no special plans to encourage women who can’t afford the $5 to attend,” Roberts conceded. “But we do encourage activities of this type: If a group can’t afford to send all its members, we encourage it to send one representative instead of 10. Funds are always a Martha Hamilton, a former Washington D.C. reporter, works in Austin. handicap,” he added. “Many of the aims of the conference are of as much, if not more, importance to poorer women as they are to business and professional women.” Even so, no special attempt is being made to reach these women. Four topics have been pinpointed to be dealt with in workshop sessions at the conference: job counseling, day care centers, financial management, and laws pertaining to women’s rights in Texas. More topics may be added if enough women show an interest, says Roberts, who insists that the ultimate details are in the hands of the women. THERE IS NO workshop on Texas abortion laws, recently struck down by a federal district court in Dallas and much on the minds of women concerned with securing their rights. “We feel that as much attention as the problem has been given, it will probably crop up in the more general workshops,” according to Roberts. “But if enough women feel it deserves a single workshop, we will consider it.” The governor has no specific legislative reforms in mind to recommend to the A few words about the status of women in state agencies. State agencies are among the worst discriminators in Texas, on the basis of sex or anything else, according to an official at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.i The problem with sex discrimination in state agencies is that there is no recourse to law. Federal statutes outlaw sex discrimination \(the clause was added to the 1964 Civil Rights Act in the course of some heavy-handed joking by are not covered. The Texas legislature in 1967 outlawed discrimination by state or local government offices “because of the person’s race, religion, color, or national origin .. .” but not because of sex. Governor Smith has taken no action on discrimination by state agencies. Some women do go to the EEOC, only to find that the agency cannot help. An EEOC employee estimates that about 25 cases of sex discrimination involving state and local agencies are reported to them each year. Until recently, the EEOC has kept no record of these. Sex discrimination takes many forms: refusal to hire or promote women, a double standard in pay scales, and enforced pregnancy leaves. In my case, it was refusal to hire. conference and will give no assurance that recommendations of the conference will have his backing. “If we said we were going to insure certain results, a certain tempo would be established that would be intimidating to the conference,” Roberts hedged. “The governor has given the conference the sanction of his office. It’s an opportunity for the women of the state to be heard.. .. We hope the conference will come up with specific remedies. Then it would be up to the governor whether to act on the recommended remedies.” Governor Smith will address the conference, and Mrs. Smith \(can anyone remember her effort to participate insofar as her schedule and prior commitments allow,” the governor’s office said. The actual planning of the pre-election conference has been going on for about a month, but the timing was non-political and the conference will be non-partisan, Roberts says. Even so, he says, if there had been more time for planning “it might have been possible to get a more responsive, interested audience.” When the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department told me I would not be considered for a job because they wanted a man in that slot, I went to the EEOC. They took a sworn complaint, which I was told would be brought in during talks with the governor’s office about discrimination by state agencies. Later EEOC forwarded the complaint to the U.S. Department of the Interior, which returned it to me with a letter from the director of the office for equal opportunity at the Interior Department. “The position for which you applied was with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department which appears to be a state government agency and is not under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior.” That seemed to exhaust the possibilities. IN ANOTHER case, a woman answered a Daily Texan ad for computer programmers at the University of Texas. Although she made an A on a competitive examination, after three interviews she was told that the university doesn’t like to hire women for that job. She might have to work on campus at night, the interviewer told her, expressing concern about what working odd hours might do to her August 21, 1970 7 And now, Governor .. Allttak …..211.1Z
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