The best way for women, in particular working mothers, to achieve economic stability for themselves and their families is to learn about the government polices that led to the way wealth is divided in the United States, a speaker said at the fifth annual (Net)working Gathering and Conference on Women & Literacy on March 7 at Fordham University.

“The real reason for the economic disparities are the policies and the rules that have been enacted historically,” said Meizhu Lui, the former executive director of United for a Fair Economy, and the keynote speaker for the two-day conference, which was co-sponsored by Women Expanding: Literacy Education Action Research Network (WE LEARN) and Fordham’s Graduate School of Education (GSE).

Lui, co-author of The Color of Wealth: The Story Behind the U.S. Racial Wealth Divide (New Press, 2006), traced how land and wealth were acquired in U.S. history and said people of color have been barred by laws and by discrimination from participating in government wealth-building programs that benefit white Americans. For every dollar owned by the average white family in the United States, the average family of color has less than a dime, Lui said.

“We can’t explain what’s going on today without looking at this history,” said Lui, a social activist and union organizer. “If you look at someone’s income, it’s like a snapshot, but if you want to look at their wealth it’s more like a movie. You have to look back over time. We can say that inheritance is the main way that class and race privilege is passed along. As we understand how these levers work, we can take control of them and make them work for us.”

More than 180 adult and literacy educators and students attended the conference, “Building Alliances/Construyendo Alianzas,” which was designed to explore the differences that divide women and consider ways of building alliances across those differences.

The community- and education-based conference included a series of workshops and events focusing on general issues of women’s basic/literacy education. An exhibit area featured a collection of women-centered literacy materials and curriculum resources gathered by WE LEARN as well as the work of authors, publishers and literacy organizations directly related to the field.

WE LEARN, an educational non-profit organization, promotes women’s literacy as a tool for personal growth and social change through networking, education, action and resource development.

Fordham University’s GSE has prepared educators to be leaders in scholarship and service to individuals for more than 85 years. It currently serves prospective and experienced teachers, counselors, educational and school psychologists, and school leaders who are enrolled in masters’, advanced certificate, and doctoral degree and certification programs.


Gina Vergel is Senior Director of Communications. She oversees the digital news coverage, public relations, and social media for the university. Before joining Fordham in 2007, Gina worked as a reporter for the Home News Tribune, and The Ridgewood News, where she won Society of Professional Journalist (New Jersey chapter) awards for breaking news and feature writing, respectively. She can be reached at [email protected] or (646) 579-9957.