Second Annual Star of Davida Essay Contest!
Today is International Women’s Day, the yearly day to raise awareness about the political and social struggles of women worldwide.
I would like to dedicate this post to my amazing mentor, Sonia Pressman Fuentes. She has dedicated her life to the goals of International Women’s Day, accomplishing an immeasurable amount of good for the sake of women’s political, economic, and social rights. I wrote an essay about her for the 203 Words of Women Essay Contest, which I was honored to win. My essay is below.
I always understood the importance of mentorship as it relates to women’s advancement in professional fields. I’ve read numerous articles about the positive effects of a mentor and how important such a figure is in a young person’s 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 Sonia’s 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
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. Cornell University
I met her because she cofounded the National Organization for Women (NOW), the largest women’s rights association in the
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 NOW’s 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 women’s rights movement.
After the interview, Sonia and I stayed in correspondence. I was still in awe that a distinguished women’s 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.
Sonia’s tireless work for gender equality has truly influenced my life. As a NOW cofounder, she got me involved in the organization’s 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 I’m 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.