“Shift Happens”: San Francisco Summit Pursues Equitable Future for Women

  • Apr 25, 2023
  • Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌ |‌ ‌California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌
  • Sac Cultural Hub

San Francisco Mayor London Breed provides the opening statements at the inaugural Shifts Happen Women’s Policy Summit in San Francisco on April 13, 2023. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

The San Francisco Commission and Department on the Status of Women (DOSW) moved one step closer to helping transform the Golden Gate City into a fully-gender equitable city by staging an event centered on women’s voices, perspectives, and ideas.

In partnership with the African American Art and Culture Complex (AAACC), DOSW presented the “Shift Happens: Women’s Policy Summit” that attracted nearly 600 women to City View at The Metreon in downtown San Francisco on April 13.

The summit was a daylong event about “shifting narratives, policies, and culture” to create a “gender-equitable space” for women, said Kimberly Ellis, Director of DOSW. The event featured prominent women, allies and advocates from across the country to come up with effective ways DOSW can build inclusive pathways to education, tools and resources to create opportunities, and practical guides for health and safety.

“The Department of the Status of Women has reframed our work into three areas: health and safety, economic security, and civic engagement and political empowerment,” Ellis said “Today, you will hear conversations about shifting in those areas that needs to happen in order to get on the path to gender equity.”

Ellis continued, “Truth be told, the shift is always happening. We (women) are always called to higher levels. What I truly do believe is that as we climb, we must lift. And when you get there, bring other women along the way as you climb. So, today is just the beginning. We’re just getting started.”

The AAACC is a space for Black creatives to present, gather, and learn, while serving as a venue for all to experience Black art and culture. The DOSW collaborates with other city leaders and agencies to address issues on numerous intersectional and interdepartmental fronts. It promotes equitable treatment and fosters the advancement of women, girls, and nonbinary people throughout San Francisco through policies and programs.

With the city’s skyline as its background, the summit attracted movement makers, policy leaders, proprietors, elected officials, community advocates, artists, and more.

Ellis and her staff brought in an array of dynamic speakers from various sectors of society. San Francisco Mayor London Breed opened up the eight-hour summit with a warm welcome and address.

Guest speakers from San Francisco included California State Controller Malia Cohen, San Francisco Supervisor Myrna Melgar, and San Francisco City Administrator Carmen Chu.

The Shift Happens’ Economic Security panel included S.F. Department on the Status of Women director Kimberly Ellis, left, California State Controller Malia Cohen, center, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell, right. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

Conversations with CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest, Sallie Krawcheck, and U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) were also part of the program.

“We have to start highlighting the conversations about addressing the challenges that exist for women and making sure that we are taking action, putting forth women’s voices and women’s needs — and not to be apologetic about talking about it publicly” Breed said. “Today is that day to hear from various panels, actresses, people in law enforcement, men who support women and all of these kinds of folks from all over the state of California coming together to empower you.”

The first panel during the Economic Security segment focused on various economic and financial resources available to women at the local, state and federal levels in California, as well as products and support through private and philanthropic initiatives. Panelists included Holly Mitchell, Los Angeles County Supervisor; Natalie Foster, Economic Security Project President and Co-Founder; Amy Everitt, CEO of Golden State Opportunity/CalEITC; Nicole Agbayani, San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment Director; and Kimberlee Vaye, program director of California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls.

“We understand at the core that women are responsible for keeping families whole and keeping communities whole,” said Mitchell, who is one of five history-making policymakers serving on an all-woman L.A.  County Board of Supervisors. “When we have policies that disproportionately, negatively impact us, we are compromising the integrity of all of our communities. We do what we can to end the systemic racism and sexism that have led us to the conditions that we are expected to live and survive in today.”

The second panel addressed health and safety. Panelists included women of color Police Chiefs, District Attorneys and Sheriffs who mostly lead predominately male staff. Diana Becton, Contra Costa District Attorney; Tanzanika Carter, San Francisco Assistant Sheriff; Christina Corpus:

Shown from left to right, Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton, San Francisco Assistant Sheriff Tanzanika Carter, and San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins were panelists for the Health and Safety segment of the DOSW’s summit. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey

San Mateo County Sheriff; Bisa French, Richmond Police Chief; Brooke Jenkins, San Francisco District Attorney, Tina Nieto; Monterey County Sheriff and moderator Diana Oliva-Aroche, the Director of Policy and Public Affairs for the San Francisco Police Department spoke during this segment.

The final panel, civic engagement and political empowerment, discussed specific legislation already in the works to address structural gender inequities, as well as ways DOSW intends to leverage individual and collective efforts to organize.

State Assemblyman Issac Bryan (D-Los Angeles) served on the male panel that discussed support of women and equality. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

The panel consisted of U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-MI-12), Emiliana Guereca Zeidenfeld, Women’s March Action Chief Executive Officer; Molly Watson, Deputy Director of California Donor Table; Erica Pinto, chairwoman of Jamul Indian Village of Kumeyaay; Sara Guillermo, IGNITE National Chief Executive Officer; and the panel’s moderator Aimee Allison, She The People President.

Tlaib made history in 2008 by becoming the first Muslim woman to ever serve in the Michigan legislature. She was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018. She shared her childhood experiences, talked about her close connection to the Black community in Detroit, and the tensions she sometimes experiences serving in Congress as a woman of color.

“When I got on to that floor it really was not an institution ready for me. It really wasn’t,” Tlaib said at the summit. “But it’s going to be ready for us (women of color) because we are not going anywhere.”

An all-male panel, titled “Power ‘Man-el,’” provided a provocative conversation that explored topics including strategies to shift cultural narratives around societal roles, gender equitable frameworks in the business and private sectors and recent legislation around pay transparency.

The members of San Francisco Commission on the Status of Women spoke about championing the equitable treatment and advancement of women and girls across social, economic and political indexes through policies, programs and legislation.

In the Fall of 2020, Ellis was appointed by San Francisco Mayor London Breed to lead the DOSW. She was charged with helping to lead advocacy efforts at the local, state and federal levels for resources and policies that create greater opportunity for women, girls and nonbinary people.

Ellis manages a $25 million budget, including more than $13 million in discretionary city-funded grants to community-based organizations to support issues like gender-based violence and housing insecurity. An additional $11 million in state, federal and privately funded grants are under her purview.

Kimberly Ellis is doing such an amazing job and really making shifts happen,” U.S Congresswoman Lee said before her virtual fireside chat with Ellis during the summit.

Ellis is known around the country as a power player in politics. She has appeared on syndicated television and radio, having been interviewed by national political media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Associated Press.

Ellis has run national operations, including the shepherding of the state and federal incorporation and launch processes in 2010 as the National Affiliate Director at Emerge America, the nation’s most effective training program for Democratic women who run for office. She led the flagship affiliate, Emerge California, as its Executive Director. Ellis holds a law degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Law at Northcentral University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Jacksonville University.

“If you like what you saw, heard, and felt it today, tell a friend, tell two or three, and tell them we are going to do this again next year,” Ellis said of hosting another women’s summit.