• -
  • Interviews of, and Articles about, Sonia

Interviews of, and Articles about, Sonia Pressman Fuentes

Articles about Sonia are also contained in the section on Belgium.

Sonia Pressman Fuentes

WOMEN'S EQUALITY IS PRESSED
By Jean Tucker

Would an employer be discriminating against women and thus be in violation of the Civil Rights Law, if he were to seek a man for a job that requires extensive traveling with a male supervisor?

According to a woman lawyer who works for the Equal Employment Opportunity Com- mission, Washington, D.C., such an employer might well be in violation of the law.

Atty. Sonia Pressman was a panelist at a five-hour meeting of the Connecticut Council for Equal Employment Opportunity held at the Hartford Hilton Tuesday.

The meeting was highlighted by an address by the new chairman of the federal commission, Stephen N. Shulman, who succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., and the announcement of the new chairman of the Connecticut Council for Equal Employment Opportunity.

He is J. William Jones, president of the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corp., in Groton. Jones succeeds Richard M. Stewart, president of Anaconda American Brass Co., Waterbury.

Shulman praised the progress Connecticut firms and organizations have made in job training, but said there is still much work to be done.

He used Fairchild County as an example and said that minority groups represent 20 per cent of the county's urban area population.

However, Shulman said, minority employment in 21 large companies is only six per cent and in these same 21 companies, the highest minority participation in jobs in the manager and professional category is only 1.4 per cent.

While 60 per cent of the white employes fall in the higher paid and higher skilled jobs, only 25 per cent of the minority group workers are in this classification.

In the job training area, one half of all companies in Fairfield County, reporting in 1965 had no programs. Of the total of 109 apprentices, there was only one minority representative. Training programs for production jobs showed 19 per cent minority group workers. There were no trainees for white collar jobs.

National studies parallel what is found in Fairfield County, Shulman said, or they show worse conditions.

He said his commission will work to change this pattern by emphasizing broad, industry or area wide programs to open up job opportunities for minority group members "through accelerated affirmative action programs."

The complaint process will remain the primary concern of the commission, Shulman said. "This is as it should be, for the achievement of individual justice is a goal we should all seek and one that is essential to more general progress for society.

"The complaint process can also yield immediate returns far beyond the vindica- tion of a particular complainant's rights."

Shulman said that many employers achieve improved employment patterns without complaints. "They believe that it's both good business and good citizenship to initiate affirmative action that produces affirmative results," he said.

He cited the Aetna Life and Casualty Co. as such an employer. With the Urban League of Greater Hartford, the company trained 14 women from disadvantaged areas in steno- graphic and clerical work at a cost of $ 7,691.78. "The majority wound up as steady employes of the company," Shulman said.

He also cited Royal Typewriter and other Hartford employers for their training programs.

He noted Connecticut prosperity and said "I ask you to seize this opportunity to recruit, train, advance employes in a manner that provides opportunities for minorities."

He also asked that a positive approach be taken to implement the sex provision of the Civil Rights Act.

"What is needed is a creative approach, a blueprint for action that takes us beyond the comfort of familiar solutions," Shulman said.

A group from his office in Washington formed a panel to tell how the commission works and how it can serve both employers and employes.

               SEX DISCRIMINATION

The lady lawyer, Miss Pressman, who is with the EEOC General Counsel's office, dis- cussed how the Civil Rights law is interpreted.

There doesn't seem to be much misunderstanding regarding racial discrimination, but questions on sex discrimination are many.

The one quoted above on whether or not an employer would be discriminating if he sought a man for a job that requires extensive traveling with a male supervisor drew this answer from Miss Pressman :

"I came here with a group of men and no problems occurred."

She said that obviously a man can't be employed to model women's bathing suits; but agreed that many other situations are not so easily dismissed. She said reasonableness must be applied in all cases.

She said her office is studying such questions as conflicts between Title 7 and State Fair Employment Practices laws; hours women can work and Social Security benefits that are more favorable to women than men.

         VOLUNTARY COMPLIANCE

Frank S. Caracciolo, Director of Education Programs of the EEOC, urged that employers call on the Commission's Technical Assistance Division. "We're concerned with voluntary compliance," he said, "and we're there to help."

Ben D. Segal, director of Liaison EEOC, asked employers to guard against "tokenism" - employing only a few from a minority group; the continuing trend of business moving to suburbs "where jobs go begging" and outmoded tests and employment criteria. "Don't test people for qualities they won't need in the job you want to fill," he warned.

George O. Butler, the EEOC Associate Director of Education Programs, warned that company presidents might set a policy of equal employment, but that does not mean that it is always being carried out on the entry level. He asked for constant vigilance and also offered the assistance of the Commission.

Elner L. Balab, Manpower Development Specialist, Department of Labor, described the liaisons the commission has with his department and the Health, Education and Welfare Department to provide funds for training programs.

Lt. Gov. Fred J. Doocy represented Gov. Dempsey at the luncheon and announced Jones' appointment.

Joseph F. Cunningham, Labor Relations attorney for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also spoke.