By Bill Parry
City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras’ (D-East Elmhurst) fledgling Women’s Leadership and Empowerment Brunch drew the star-power of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) Sunday afternoon.
Several dozen small business owners joined district leaders and PTA members at the Transfiguration Church of Christ Greek Orthodox Church, at 38-05 98th St., to hear the senator speak about several issues like universal pre-K, raising the minimum wage, financial and social empowerment and pay equity.
“The laws haven’t caught up with the times,” Gillibrand said. “Women now make up 48 percent of the workforce. Two-thirds of all minimum wage workers are women and half of them are college graduates. We have to help them maximize their potential.”
She said three out of every 10 families are headed by single mothers who face structural impediments while trying to work and raise children at the same time because of the lack of affordable daycare and pre-K.
“Daycare is so expensive at $14,000 a year for a 5-year-old, no one on a low-wage job can afford it,” Gillibrand said.
The senator made a case for raising the minimum wage.
“I know $10.10 an hour is still low wage, but it gets you above the poverty line. If you’re a small business owner and you pay a fair wage, people will spend money at the corner store,” Gillibrand said.
The loudest round of applause of the session greeted the senator when she said, “We have to use our voices to make sure leaders know how important these issues are. We have to change the agenda.”
The senator’s appearance was a boost to Ferreras’ empowerment program that began in October 2012 with then-Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Ferreras hopes to build the series, where she will feature a guest speaker at quarterly meetings.
In addition to the small gatherings, the councilwoman is starting a YouTube channel to reach a wider audience.
”As the representative of an extremely diverse district that is home to many women in leadership, I am happy to be able to bring a dynamic group of female community leaders together in one room for an empowering discussion,” Ferreras said. “Having Sen. Gillibrand in attendance added to the excitement of the event. In the near future, I look forward to having the opportunity to host a women’s empowerment brunch on a consistent basis, featuring guest speakers in leadership that can contribute to the women’s issues discussion.”
As part of her remarks, Gillibrand addressed Ferreras and her newfound power as the City Council’s chairwoman of the Finance Committee.
“A lot of the issues involving the economy and small businesses will go through your committee,” she said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.