LA mayor says men should make gender equality a top issue

Garcetti: 'Men, own this as your issue'

Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Imagess

Mayor of Los Angeles Eric Garcetti, left, and L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis onstage during the 2018 Women's March on Jan 20.

(CNN) - Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti used the national spotlight in Washington on Thursday to urge his fellow mayors to make gender equity a top priority, highlighting his city's efforts to put more women in top jobs.

"Men, own this as your issue," Garcetti said. "Let's not talk about doing it because we have daughters and sisters and mothers. Do it because we know our cities will be more prosperous when we, as leaders, step up."

He centered his keynote speech on female empowerment during the 86th U.S. Conference of Mayors at a time when much of the country is focused on the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment.

The Democrat is often mentioned as a potential 2020 presidential candidate. If he runs, he could be competing against high-profile female potential candidates including U.S. Sens. Kirstin Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

While he acknowledged Los Angeles is dealing with many pressing issues such as homelessness, immigration and wildfires, he said gender equity would take precedence.

He emphasized his support of -- and participation in -- the second annual Women's March Inc. in downtown Los Angeles last Saturday, the measures the city has taken to advance gender equity and the importance of men taking an active role in addressing the issue.

Garcetti's remarks followed numerous sexual misconduct allegations in 2017 against prominent Hollywood players, such as Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., Russell Simmons and James Franco.

He mentioned Juana Melara, a hotel housekeeper in Long Beach, California, who spoke out about sexual harassment she faced on the job and was featured as one of "The Silence Breakers" named as Time's 2017 Person of the Year.

Garcetti urged mayors to follow the lead of Los Angeles, which has taken data-driven steps to combat gender inequality and sexual misconduct.

"You can't manage what you can't measure," said Garcetti.

Gender inclusion in the workplace was a key point he focused on.

"What percentage of your GM, chiefs or commissioners are women?" Garcetti asked the mayors. "What percentage of city contracts today go to women owned-businesses? What percentage of girls play in official sports programs in recreation facilities?"

A study conducted by Los Angeles' Mount Saint Mary's University found that only 25 percent of users at the city's sports facilities were women. After seeing the low percentage, Garcetti said, the city brought female attendance up to 45 percent.

"That light exposed the shortcomings that we had," said Garcetti.

He said tackling issues such as homelessness and crime begins with addressing domestic and sexual abuse against women, because of the domino effect they have on the community.

"In our hands, we can make space for this world we want to see," said Garcetti. "The manifestations of violence against women and sexual harassment comes from not understanding how this connects with other pieces."

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