On the day of the fourth national Women’s March in Washington, D.C., it is worthwhile to consider where we are and where we deserve to be. And “we” means all of us — women, men and transgender people. (A note: Because of weather, Seattle’s March will be March 8.)
The Equal Rights Amendment, originally known as the Lucretia Mott Amendment drafted by the women’s rights leader Alice Paul, was introduced in Congress every year from 1923 to 1970. It passed both the House and the Senate by 1972, when I was 5 years old. But it was only ratified initially by 35 states, just short of the necessary 38. Virginia on Wednesday became the 38th state, but legal challenges persist. Fifty years later, we haven’t moved the ball forward much.
If America cannot affirm equality for 51% of our population, how can we get progress toward social, racial and economic justice for truly marginalized populations and minorities?
As someone born in the 1960s raised to believe a woman can do anything, and having witnessed women breaking the glass ceiling and contributing to a better world in so many ways, it is beyond depressing that women still don’t have constitutionally protected equal rights.
Our history of subjection to misogynistic treatment and to a litany of assaults on our rights would take volumes to catalog. For the sake of brevity, consider two facts: First, women today make 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 18%. And according to some analyses, often women make just half of what men earn. At the current pace of change, projections say it will take 40 to 200 years or more to reach parity in pay for all women. And second, despite the fact that women make up nearly 60% of the civilian workforce (and growing larger), women hold less than 25% of seats in Congress, and less than 30% in state legislatures and statewide elected offices.
Beyond equal pay is how we are meeting the most critical challenges of our time. We’ve had more than 200 years of male majority policymaking. Isn’t it about time we see what’s possible when women take a majority?
These last four years have seen bold, fearless action from women — from actors to athletes — who are shining a spotlight on the problems of sexual exploitation, unequal pay, and lack of equal voice and opportunity perpetuated by male cultural norms. Thanks to #MeToo and dozens of other victims’ advocacy initiatives, we are shifting that cultural norm. We are putting a stop to the historic acceptance of predatory and power-based sexual harassment. In everyday life, women are calling men out when they mansplain, patronize and bully.
For more than 200 years, a male majority have been making decisions for us all. How will those decisions change if women have a majority? It’s hard to imagine it would not result in faster progress on equal pay, health- and safety-related policies, family and medical leave, gun violence, education, environmental protection, immigration, veterans services, support and opportunities for disabled people — you name it.
What better year than 2020 to put our voices, our energy and our collective power to work electing enough women to represent us at the state and federal levels. We need to finish the job started by women’s rights leaders more than 100 years ago. This is not a partisan issue. Regardless of political party, 51% of Americans are women. We need a Congress, a White House and a Judiciary that represent that 51%.
And guess who gets to make these “hiring” decisions? We do. If you are a woman, run for office. Whatever gender you are, encourage your female friends and co-workers to run for office and support women who are running for office. Last but not least, vote with 51% in mind. #TimesUp is right — it’s our turn!