Ida L. Castro became the first Hispanic woman to head the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) when she was sworn in as Chairwoman last month.
“I see this job as giving me the ability to address concerns that I have picked up throughout my life,” said Castro, 46. “I believe in equal opportunity and life has shown me it is not always present.”
Castro has known discrimination first-hand. In one former job, Castro discovered that several employees she supervised were earning a salary higher than her own. Not one to tolerate discrimination based on gender or ethnicity, Castro persuaded her bosses to remedy the situation. “I had the wherewithal to do that,” she pointed out. “Not everyone does.”
The EEOC was established in 1964 to detect and eliminate discrimination in the workplace. However, the organization has faced a substantial amount of controversy since its inception. “The perception is that EEOC is just a bureaucratic nightmare. But we think we’re at a point where we are turning the corner,” stated Castro.
New hope has come in the form of a 15 percent budget increase. Castro believes the new money can be used in efforts to restore the organization’s reputation. “I truly believe in the mission of EEOC,” Castro said. “Discrimination in the workplace is insidious. It does not benefit employees. It does not benefit employers. It is also against every value I’ve been taught, that you should be judged on your merits, not on some stereotype that may be out there.”
Castro does not discount the effort it takes workers to approach the EEOC either. “I really appreciate the courage it takes for people to walk through our doors and file a complaint,” she said. “It is a big step and we here at EEOC need to take that seriously.”