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Articles and Stories by Sonia Pressman Fuentes

Sonia Pressman Fuentes

A Negative Experience, A Positive Outcome

This article was first published in the e-zine, The Gantseh Megillah of March 2009.

At the end of 1981, I accepted a position with one of this country's top corporations in Cleveland, Ohio, to be in charge of their Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and Affirmative Action programs. It was a daunting decision because acceptance required me to move, as a newly-single mother with my nine-year-old daughter, to the Midwest--a part of the country I had never expected to live in since I had spent my entire life (since coming to the US from Germany at the age of five) in the East.

My time at this corporation was rocky because I realized after I came aboard that the company had hired me because (1) at that time the federal government was requiring that companies improve their diversity policies and (2) so the company could say it had a well-known feminist on board, although it did not really want anything done about its EEO policies.

In 1984, at the request of my boss, I prepared a slide presentation to be shown to the company's chairman and president on the company's EEO situation. The presentation I prepared revealed problems in recordkeeping with regard to diversity at the company's west coast operation. When he learned what the presentation would show, my boss said, "You're not going to hang that on the west coast!" and shortly thereafter, I was fired.

I was devastated--I had moved my family to the Midwest, I was 56 years old, and did not know what I was going to do.

Everyone told me not to bother trying to find another job as no one would hire a 56-year-old woman. But I felt I had no choice--I had worked all my adult life, wanted to continue, and had to support myself and my daughter. I began to seek other employment. It took me a year-and-a-quarter, during which time my brother gave me loans that tided me over, and then I was offered a position as an attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at HUD (U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development). This brought me back to Washington, DC, where I had previously spent 16 years as an attorney with the federal government. I stayed there until my retirement in 1993, thus adding considerably to my pension with the federal government. Shortly thereafter, I began to write my memoir, Eat First--You Don't Know What They'll Give You, The Adventures of an Immigrant Family and Their Feminist Daughter, became a writer and a public speaker, was inducted into the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame, and moved to Sarasota, FL, where I created a new life for myself. My discharge (which, with the help of a Cleveland attorney, was turned into a resignation) turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.

Copyright 2009 by Sonia Pressman Fuentes.