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Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment

Fatima Goss Graves is Vice President for Education and Employment at the National Women's Law Center, where she works to promote the rights of women and girls at school and in the workplace. Ms. Goss Graves advocates and litigates core legal and policy issues relating to at-risk girls in school, including those that impact pregnant and parenting students, students in a hostile school climate and students participating in athletics. She further works to advance equal pay for equal work, expand opportunities for women in nontraditional fields, and ensure the development of fundamental legal principles of equal opportunity. She uses a number of advocacy strategies in her work on these issues ranging from public education and legislative advocacy to litigation, including briefs in the Supreme Court and federal courts of appeals. Prior to joining the Center, she worked as an appellate and trial litigator at Mayer Brown LLP. She began her career as a law clerk for the Honorable Diane P. Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Ms. Goss Graves is a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles and Yale Law School.

My Take

NWLC Applauds Confirmation of Charlotte Burrows and David Lopez to the EEOC

Posted by Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment | Posted on: December 03, 2014 at 03:29 pm

Today, the Senate confirmed Charlotte Burrows to be a Commissioner on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and David Lopez to be General Counsel of the EEOC. Now-Commissioner Burrows served most recently in the Department of Justice, and previously, as counsel to the late Senator Ted Kennedy. Mr. Lopez was renominated to the General Counsel position, in which he has served with distinction since 2010.

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A Call to Action to Support African American Girls

Posted by Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment | Posted on: September 23, 2014 at 11:50 am

The headlines are sometimes shocking: A 7 year old African American girl sent home from her charter school and told by school officials that her hairstyle was not "presentable" and violated the dress code, which termed "dreadlocks" and "afros" to be "faddish" and "unacceptable." A 16-year-old African American female student in Richmond, CA, brutally raped and assaulted in the campus courtyard during her school's homecoming dance. An African American student parent, who took a full load of Advanced Placement courses her senior year and finished at the top of her class, forced to share her "valedictorian" title because she was deemed "a big mess" by the principal. These are the types of stories that make my heart hurt — for those girls and for their families, but also for the many girls whose stories are never told. And these are the types of stories that drove the National Women's Law Center to partner with the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund on a report that fills an important gap in existing data on educational opportunity for African American girls.

Today we released Unlocking Opportunity for African American Girls: A Call to Action for Educational Equity. Unlocking Opportunity shines a light on the prevalence of race and gender stereotypes and other barriers that adversely impact the educational experiences of African American girls. And it highlights critical data about the education and economic outcomes that result.

We wrote this report to examine the many hurdles faced by African American girls and boys — such as the under-resourcing of schools — and to emphasize those that have a distinct impact on African American girls due to the intersection of gender and race stereotypes, such as disproportionate and overly harsh disciplinary practices that exclude them from school for minor and subjective infractions such as dress code violations (yes, some schools really make students miss out on learning time for subjective dress code and hair "infractions"); pervasive sexual harassment and violence; discrimination against pregnant and parenting students; and limited access to athletics and other extracurricular activities.

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201 Days Till Equal Pay: The Wage Gap for African American Women

Posted by Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment | Posted on: July 21, 2014 at 10:54 am

This year the nation marked Equal Pay Day (the symbolic day when women’s earnings finally catch up to men’s earnings from the previous year) on April 8th. I was lucky enough to be able to “celebrate” by standing with President Obama at the White House as he signed two critical executive actions to address the problem of unequal pay in the federal contractor workforce.

Yes, that’s right — women overall have to work three months into the new year before their wages catch up to men’s. Even worse, when you look at the data by race and gender together it is clear that it takes even longer for women of color to catch up. That’s because the wage gaps experienced by women of color are substantially larger than for women overall. Women overall typically make only 77 percent of what men make for full time, year round work — but, for example, for African American women and Hispanic women compared to white, non-Hispanic men this figure is 64 cents and 54 cents, respectively.

Which brings us to late July — the time when we will finally reach Equal Pay Day for African American women.

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What Brown Means to Me

Posted by Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment | Posted on: May 16, 2014 at 12:50 pm

I remember the first time my parents told me about Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark decision that declared racially segregated schools “inherently unequal.” My parents celebrated the decision, for redefining education opportunities in this country, for upending the racial caste system that had been constitutionally enshrined to that point, and for the opportunities that it provided for my family. It was the framework from which I learned about the civil rights movement, about women’s rights, and about social justice more broadly.

It is impossible to overstate Brown’s importance—it outlined the promise of an equal education as a foundation for an equal society. And it meant that the next generation of children in the Goss family could choose where to go to school, though note that the Knoxville Board of Education fought that point for another decade.

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NWLC Releases New Report! Reality Check: Seventeen Million Reasons Low-Wage Workers Need Strong Protections from Harassment

Did you know that a narrowly divided 5 to 4 Supreme Court recently watered down protections for victims of workplace harassment? More than 15 years ago, the Supreme Court recognized the potential for supervisors to abuse their power over their subordinates and employers’ responsibility to prevent that abuse. And the Court put in place strong protections from harassment by a supervisor. But the Court’s recent decision in Vance v. Ball State University [PDF] rolled back those protections by including within their reach only supervisors with the power to take actions like hiring and firing. The Vance decision said that supervisors who direct daily work are now mere coworkers in the eyes of the law, and must bring their cases under the much more difficult standard that applies to coworker harassment claims. Now workers will have a much harder time holding their employers accountable for harassment committed by lower-level supervisors who assign tasks, set schedules, and control other aspects of their day-to-day work. As Justice Ginsburg noted in her dissent, the decision was “blind to the realities of the workplace.”

Reality Check: Seventeen Million Reasons Low-Wage Workers Need Strong Protections from Harassment, released today by NWLC, highlights three particularly important workplace realities:

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