First and foremost, follow your dream.
When I began work in July 1965 at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as the first woman attorney in the Office of the General Counsel, interpreting Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which, among other things, prohibits sex discrimination by covered employers, employment agencies, and labor unions, I found I had a passion for women’s rights.
As a Jew who had to leave Berlin, Germany, in 1933 with my immediate family to save our lives when I was five years old, I early learned of the evils of discrimination based on religion. When I rode through the South with my family en route to spending the winter in Miami Beach, Florida, when I was a teenager, and saw the racist headlines in the newspapers and the racist signs on benches, busses, water fountains and restrooms, I saw the evils of discrimination based on race.
And when I joined the EEOC, I became aware of the evils of discrimination based on gender. It’s all of a piece – mistreatment of people not because of who they are but because of the group into which they were born or belong. It also includes, of course, discrimination based on ethnic origin, color, age, marital status, mental or physical disability, and sexual orientation.
I have been engaged in the struggle against such discrimination ever since. While at the EEOC, people told me from time to time to leave the field of women’s rights as the lucrative work lay in corporate law and other areas. I never gave that a thought but instead followed my passion. And that has brought meaning to my life and given me a most rewarding life.
Second is the importance of networking. I try to make friends wherever I go and to keep those I have made. I stay in touch with my friends by that invaluable form of communication: e-mail, but also by snail mail, telephone calls, and personal visits. The benefits of friendship are endless. My friends provide me with emotional support, company, fun, information, joy, and love—in short, all the reasons to keep living. I hope I do the same for them…. Read Sonia’s remaining two lessons on InspireMeToday.com.
Sonia Fuentes was the first female attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the EEOC and is a feminist activist, speaker and author.