SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Business

August 14, 2013

Local leader has national platform to empower women

BEVERLY — The American Association of University Women has been on the forefront of national issues that affect women in the workplace, such as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and a recent major class-action suit brought by women workers against Wal-Mart.

Now, a Beverly resident, Patricia Fae Ho, will be leading those efforts as the newly elected president of the AAUW.

For the next two years, Ho, a former teacher active in a variety of local volunteer efforts, will help guide an organization of 165,000 members, both women and men, that focuses on equity issues of women and girls through advocacy and research. Members must have at least a two-year associate’s degree to join.

The organization aims to empower women “through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.” Its compilation research is what sets the group apart, Ho said.

“We use our research to create greater community awareness,” Ho said, adding: “It’s the research that keeps you relevant.”

Among the issues the group has tackled are fair pay for women, harassment, domestic violence and higher insurance costs for women than for men. The AAUW advocated heavily, for example, for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed by President Obama in 2009, which allows workers to better fight sex discrimination on the job.

In 2011, the organization’s Legal Advocacy Fund accepted a class-action lawsuit of 1.5 million present and former Walmart employees protesting sex discrimination on the job. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the class involved in the case was too big to move ahead, however. This was the first time the fund had accepted a case outside of academia.

Ho has deep ties on the North Shore. A resident of Beverly for 13 years, she is a trustee of Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, where she volunteers as a docent. She is a past chairwoman of the Essex County Commission on the Status of Women; she serves on the board of Salem-based Healing Abuse, Working for Change, which focuses on the issue of domestic violence, and of Health Quarters, a reproductive health provider based in Beverly.

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