Female panelists in Las Vegas say equal pay, boosting girls’ confidence among challenges

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During the question-and-answer session at the end of “A Woman’s Place is …” a man referred to the four female panelists

During the question-and-answer session at the end of “A Woman’s Place is …” a man referred to the four female panelists collectively as “you guys,” then quickly realized his mistake.

“I mean, ‘you women,’” he added, to laughter from the crowd. Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani praised him for the clarification.

Giunchigliani was joined by fellow panelists Sharon Hwang, vice president of JHK Investment Group and Chinatown Plaza; Jennifer A. Lewis, vice president of Lewis Group of Companies; and Laura Jane Spina, president and CEO of RAFI + Andoscia Architecture Joint Venture. They sat on a stage in front of about 150 attendees Aug. 3 at the Historic Fifth Street School in downtown Las Vegas during the latest installment of UNLV University Libraries’ Building Las Vegas: Summer Speaker Series. To their left was Claytee White, director of the Oral History Research Center at UNLV, who served as a moderator.

To begin the hourlong discussion, White told the women, “I want to know how each of you have been involved in building Las Vegas.”

Giunchigliani responded that when she moved to Las Vegas 39 years ago, the population was 437,000 (it’s now nearly 633,000).

“I think as a special ed teacher, I helped grow and change Las Vegas just through the students I worked with,” she said. “But also, this community was good to me, and I’ve always felt I should give something back.”

Hwang said that when her father built Chinatown Plaza in 1993, it was a gamble, given that Spring Mountain Road was practically empty.

“Throughout the years, you started to notice a lot of Chinese restaurants (being built),” she said. “Without that particular intention, we built Las Vegas in a different way. When tourists come, they think, ‘Oh, there’s Chinatown in Las Vegas.’”

Lewis said she came to Las Vegas in 1995, just as the housing market was taking off. Her family took advantage of that, building 25,000 housing units in Southern Nevada, she said.

White asked what Southern Nevada’s future looks like.

Spina described herself as a tree hugger and added, “I believe in bike paths, parks … people living in homes that are two or three stories, that we’re not just bulldozing our old sites.”

Lewis pointed out that even during the recession, Las Vegas added a museum, an airport terminal and a performing arts center.

“Nobody else does that,” she said. “For Henderson, I probably want more authentic restaurants that aren’t chain restaurants.” Shifting gears to transportation and road work, she added, “We are so much better than Southern California; stuff gets done,” as a cheer went up.

Restaurants are opening nearly every week on Spring Mountain Road, Hwang said.

“I think we need to build more off the Strip as well,” she said. “If families are happy, everyone is happy. By bringing more family-oriented entities, it’s much better, so when people hear about Las Vegas, it’s more rounded.”

Giunchigliani said she wants to see light rail on Maryland Parkway.

“I want to see multimodal transportation,” she said. “I see so many pockets of poverty still, and I think people forget that part.”

Giunchigliani mentioned later in the talk that, just as women earn 78 cents for every dollar a man earns in the workplace, women running for office raise 78 cents for every dollar a male candidate raises. That prompted a question from an audience member, who asked how men can help women bridge the income gap.

A lot of the disparity is generational, Spina said.

“Before the baby boomers, a lot of it was cultural,” she said. “It has been difficult to break down those barriers because that’s always been the way it was.”

White interjected, “If you own a company, you pay the women as well as the men,” drawing applause.

Giunchigliani said she’d learned there were similar disparities in Nevada’s burgeoning marijuana industry and had threatened to pull a dispensary’s license unless it remedied the problem. Hwang’s advice to men was simple: Imagine the woman you’re working with is your mother or sister, and treat — and pay — her accordingly.

Giunchigliani added, “Words matter. I would encourage male counterparts, don’t get defensive. Try to appreciate a different point of view.”

Contact Brian Sandford at bsandford@viewnews.com or call 702-380-4531. Follow @nweditor on Twitter.

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    Article Female panelists in Las Vegas say equal pay, boosting girls’ confidence among challenges compiled by www.reviewjournal.com