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Minority Advocates Get Commission Posts

September 21, 1986|JANICE MALL

Three women who bring experience with the concerns of black, Latina or Asian women have taken office with the Los Angeles City Commission on the Status of Women.

Barbara Ann Bramwell, a commission member for three years and former vice president, has been elected president for the 1986-87 fiscal year.

Active in advocacy for minority women, she was instrumental in the establishment of the commission's Women of Color Committee in 1985. Bramwell works in the USC University Publications Office, is adviser to the Black Women's Caucus at USC and a mentor to incoming freshmen. She is also a volunteer counselor at the Southern California Counseling Center and co-chair of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. birthday celebration at USC.

Nino Aguayo Sorkin was elected vice president of the commission. Entering her second year as a commissioner, Sorkin is co-chair of the Women of Color Committee. She is a member of the Comision Femenil Mexicana Nacional and serves on the boards of directors of Centro de Ninos and Big Sisters of Los Angeles. A licensed clinical social worker, she is director of Adult Outpatient Services at the Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center.

Yvonne Kim Woo was reappointed by Mayor Tom Bradley and confirmed by the City Council for a five-year term as a commissioner. She is president of Highland Capital Corp. and brings a real estate and investment background to the commission. She is founder of the Korean American Equestrian Assn. and a volunteer at the Korean Women's Senior Citizens Organization.

The commission was established in 1975 for the purpose of advocating for the welfare of women in Los Angeles and to ensure full and equal participation of women in city government. For those who'd like to have a look at its work, the commission holds public meetings at 8:30 a.m. the second Monday of each month in Room 416 at City Hall.

According to a new survey of employment issued by the National Commission on Working Women, minority women continue to lag behind white women in salary and opportunities, although the gap between white and minority women is by no means as great as the gap between women and men or between white and minority men. The statistical comparisons were derived from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Census Bureau figures.

Minority women make up about 20% of the U.S. female work force. They earn, on an average, 10% to 16% less than white women and are about twice as likely to be unemployed. While the unemployment rate for women overall has decreased in the last two years to 7.4%, the survey found that white women were below the overall unemployment rate at 6.4% while black women are unemployed at a rate of 14.9% and Latina women at a rate of 11%.

The salary differential and unemployment rate is especially critical for black women because they are far more likely than any other group to be heads of families. In 1984, 44% of black families were headed by women compared to 23% of Latino families and 13% of white families.

However, for women, employment is no guarantee of rising out of poverty. Almost two-thirds of all minimum-wage earners are women. The report pointed out that a single mother of three working at minimum wage would earn $6,968 and find her family living $3,641 below the poverty line at the end of a year of work. More than half of minority families headed by women are below the poverty level even though, of these, one in three black women heads of families and one in four Latina women are working to support the family.

Education isn't quite the answer to the problem of poverty among self-supporting women and their children either. While women and men are attending college in equal numbers, 77% of working women are in non-professional positions, the largest sector clerical. Full-time female workers with college degrees still earn less than male workers with high school diplomas; a woman who has completed one to three years of college earns less than a man who has completed eighth grade.

Compared to the highest earners--white males--no other sector of society, male or female, comes close: Latino workers earn 69.1% of what white men earn, black males 68.2%, white women 62.7%, black women 56.5% and Latinas 52.4%.

Other statistics showed that black women with minor children are more likely to be working than white or Latina mothers. The report also suggested that labor unions make a substantial financial difference for working women.

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