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2013 Talia Weisberg - New York, NY
2013 Words of Women Essay of the Year
I always understood the importance of mentorship as it relates to womenís advancement in professional fields. Iíve read numerous articles about the positive effects of a mentor and how important such a figure is in a young personís life and career. However, I never grasped the true meaning of a mentor and how he or she can influence your life. Then I met my mentor, Sonia Pressman Fuentes.
The more I hear about Soniaís past, the more I am amazed by her strength. As a child, she fled Nazi Germany with her parents and older brother. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University in 1950, when quotas against women and Jews were widespread. Sonia went on to have an illustrious career as a lawyer, working for several federal government agencies and two major corporations. She drafted the Guidelines on Pregnancy and Childbirth for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as writing some of the lead decisions. She was also the highest paid woman at the corporate headquarters of the GTE Service Corporation and TRW Inc.
I met her because she cofounded the National Organization for Women (NOW), the largest womenís rights association in the United States. I was writing a paper about the history of NOW for the 2011 National History Day competition, and reached out to Sonia online for more information about NOWís history. When she agreed to an interview I felt so privileged to be able to speak to someone who had such a profound impact on the womenís rights movement.
After the interview, Sonia and I stayed in correspondence. I was still in awe that a distinguished womenís rights activist like Sonia was emailing a rookie high school feminist like me. As the weeks and months passed, the two of us began to forge a relationship. Soon enough, Sonia became my mentor. I feel so fortunate to have a woman like Sonia in my life. We discuss feminist issues at length, have partnered up to make a petition, and really established a strong intergenerational bond.
Soniaís tireless work for gender equality has truly influenced my life. As a NOW cofounder, she got me involved in the organizationís Young Feminist Task Force (YFTF). After working in the YFTF for over a year, I am seriously hoping to pursue a job at NOW once Iím done with school. Sonia has dedicated her entire life to the social betterment of the world, and I really hope that I will be able to further her work.
Congratulations again, Talia Weisberg, New York City