The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution designed to guarantee equal rights for women. The ERA was originally written by Alice Paul and, in 1923, it was introduced in the Congress for the first time. In 1972, it passed both houses of Congress and went to the state legislatures for ratification. The ERA failed to receive the requisite number of ratifications before the final deadline mandated by Congress of June 30, 1982 expired, and so it was not adopted, largely because Phyllis Schlafly mobilized conservatives to oppose the ERA.
In 1982, I was in the eighth-grade. I was in an advanced Social Studies program and we had to prepare a debate– my topic: Why the Equal Rights Amendment should be passed. I am certain in was not an eloquent argument; however, I am equally certain that it was delivered with great passion. In fact, I remember being very upset and maybe even crying when my teacher told me to calm down over the whole thing.
To this day, I maintain a huge passion for issues affecting women. I consider myself a feminist and a social liberal. I believe that God created all people, (not just white men) and regardless of race, gender, sexual preference each human should be able to have equal opportunities to make money, marry, have children and live a full and complete life. I can’t imagine a God that would think that some people deserve those things and others do not.
I know I have a lot of friends who don’t agree with my political views and I mostly keep my opinions to myself about politics, most of you don’t know how I feel about the current tax rate or our foreign policy or regulation of the banking section. However, I would venture to guess that most of you know my opinions about gender and equality. And to me this isn’t about politics, it is about our basic rights as human beings.
“The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights”
While women have made great progress in the United States in the past 100 years, we are not on equal footing to men, in business, in athletics, in finances or in politics.
This picture from the National Park Service is of a rally of suffragette in Washington, DC in 1913, a full six years before women finally won the right to vote. They were brave women who passionately believed that they should have a say in what happened in their communities and the country. There are more women serving in congress today than at any other time, as the picture below shows.
This is great progress, but there is still so much further to go.
This week the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act was signed into law. While it is important that there be laws to protect women from violence and to provide for care of those who suffer at the hands of an abuser, it makes me sad that women are not on equal footing with men, and that we need to have such a law.
There is also a bill pending called the Paycheck Fairness Act. If passed, this law will require employers to demonstrate that any salary differences between men and women doing the same work are not gender-related. Really? How sad is that? We have to have a law that allows women to earn the same money as men for the same work. Today, on average women earn just 77 cents of what men earn for the same work regardless of occupation or education. But passage of the bill was blocked last year…
Even since I have been in the work force (25 years or so), I have seen great changes in the opportunities available to women, some of the best bosses I have ever had were women; however, I work for a publicly traded company that has one female on our executive leadership team and one female on the board of directors. There is one female who has P&L ownership in the company. Prior to my current company, I worked for a company that made products for women, but had NO women on its Executive leadership team. What does this say to young women entering the work force today? Do they see opportunity or obstacles?
As women leaders, we have the responsibility to ensure that we are treating fellow women with the respect they deserve, that they are being paid at the same level as their male counterparts. We also need to ensure that we are empowering girls and young women to be confident in their ability to achieve. To encourage them to be the best at any and everything they do.
It won’t be long, I hope, until we have a female president and we can join with countries like the UK, Germany, Brazil, Chile, Liberia, South Korea in demonstrating that women are equal and can achieve anything they set their minds to. We need to demonstrate to the rest of the world that women’s rights are human rights.