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Heels of Justice

Jun 12, 2019

Welcome to Heels of Justice; these are the stories of women lawyers who are trailblazers in their field and paved the way for the rest of us.

Today, the Heels of Justice interview Noreen Farrell whose entire legal career has been dedicated to the pursuit of social justice.

Noreen is a nationally-recognized leader on a variety of gender justice issues. She chairs the Equal Pay Today! Campaign, a national campaign led by ERA and 20 other organizational partners closing the gender wage gap in states across the country. She also founded and now chairs A Stronger California Advocates Network, a collaboration of 30 organizations advancing a comprehensive women’s economic security policy agenda. A key victory of the Stronger California Campaign in 2015 was the passage of the California Fair Pay Act, a bill co-sponsored by ERA that is the strongest equal pay law in the country. Noreen also leads national impact efforts to address gender discrimination in schools, sexual harassment, workplace leave and accommodation, and the protection of caregivers from discrimination at work.

Key Takeaways

[1:35] Sarita welcomes Noreen Farrell to the Heels of Justice and they kick-start today’s episode with a quick overview of what gender justice means.

[4:09] Noreen touches on how gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity intersect in a very meaningful way, now that civil liberties are more and more under attack.

[5:05] Sarita asks what is the core goal of Equals Rights Advocates since the breadth of issues surrounding inequities is so overwhelming.

[6:35] Noreen talks about the work that has been done in the past 45 years around economic justice, from policy work to groundbreaking cases which led to a comprehensive approach in the form of the Women’s Agenda.

[9:39] Noreen believe we are at a watershed moment for the #metoo movement and she explains the three ways in which the #metoo movement was powerful:

1. It shifted the question from “Is sexual harassment an issue?” to “How do we stop it?”.

2. It exposed the complicit systems that profited from the devaluation of women.

3. It exposed the power of social media and collective action.

[12:29] Getting a call from Patricia Arquette … and the Frankenstein approach to the ultimately beautiful California Fair Pay Act.

[17:44] Noreen explains how the California Fair Pay Act was built, how making sure that employers could make pay decisions based on non-discriminatory factors enabled the bill to garner unprecedented support at the California Chamber of Commerce, as well as how it started the domino effect that can be seen in 41 States and through the Federal Paycheck Fairness Act.

[20:23] Stronger California is an agenda that speaks to the needs of all communities in California, not just pay equity but also poverty, income support, paid leave for low-income workers, quality affordable childcare, etc.

[22:26] What about Noreen’s third major initiative? The Women’s Agenda Initiative is trying to take the wins from Stronger California and help other advocates in other States trying to pass similar laws. It includes a Women’s Workplace Digital Hub, strategies, and pitfalls as well as a rapid response policy team.

[27:33] Sarita asks Noreen to talk about how she got into this line of work, to begin with.

[29:59] Noreen believes that her dedication to advocating for all women is how she also advocates for herself, but it’s not always easy. … She shares a story about a panel where all the women were all modesty and she came out guns blazing: I earned it!

[32:11] Looking back on her career, is there a story that stands out as a prime example of a day in the life of Noreen?

[36:24] Sarita thanks Noreen for sharing so much of her stories and expertise on the Heels of Justice podcast and she signs off until next time.


That’s it for this episode of Heels of Justice; if you like the stories we’re telling, please visit our website. You can join our mailing list, learn more about our guests, and see what we have planned for the future.

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Disclaimer: The opinions you have heard are ours or our guest’s alone. They’re not the opinions of our employers, or our clients, or our bosses, and not our husbands, kids or pets, or anyone else’s.

More about the Heels of Justice hosts Sarita Venkat, and Katherine Minarik

Heels of Justice on the Web

Heels of Justice on Twitter

Heels of Justice on Instagram

Heels of Justice on Facebook


Sarita Venkat on LinkedIn

Katherine Minarik on LinkedIn

Katherine Minarik on Twitter

Katherine Minarik at cleverbridge


More about our guest

Noreen Farrell at Equal Rights Advocate

Noreen Farrell on LinkedIn

Noreen Farrell on Twitter


Mentioned in this episode

Equal Rights Advocates

California Fair Pay Act

Justice For Migrant Workers — Monica Ramirez

Equal Pay Today

Paycheck Fairness Act

Stronger California Advocates Network

Women Donors Network

Nobel Foundation

van Löben Sels Foundation

Yale University