While gaining the right to vote was a huge milestone for women, it was just the beginning. Activists have continued the fight to create a more inclusive, equal, and balanced society over the last 100 years and will continue to bridge the gender equality gap until it is no more.
WOMEN IN CONGRESS
Women are grossly under represented in Congress. Inclusive leadership teams make better decisions that deliver better results. The qualities women bring to the table — the ability to connect, collaborate, empathize, communicate, and focus on the greater good — help build the best balanced nation.
Jeannette Rankin was the first female member actually voted in to the United States Congress, occurring first in 1916, then again in 1940. In the past 100 years, a total of 366 women have served as U.S. Representatives, Delegates, or Senators, in comparison to the 12,000 or so men in those positions since Congress began.
After more than 230 years, today, women still only make up about 25 percent of U.S. Congress and as yet, no woman has served as U.S. President.
EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT
While the 19th Amendment gave women the vote, there are still parts of the U.S. Constitution that are unclear and open to misinterpretation on women’s rights. Activist Alice Paul introduced the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) proposal in 1923, arguing that, “We shall not be safe until the principle of equal rights is written into the framework of our government.”
The U.S. Constitution does not explicitly guarantee that the rights it protects are held equally by all citizens without regard to gender.
Almost 100 years later, Paul’s request is still not part of the Constitution. Its supporters continue to maintain that the absence of an explicit prohibition against sex discrimination remains one key impediment undermining the fight for gender equality and women’s progress overall.
WOMEN IN BUSINESS
From Hollywood to the board room, to music venues, sports arenas, news rooms, and computer science labs, women in business are still treated less valuable than their male counterparts, and there are far fewer of them in higher paid careers. They are paid much less for equal positions and struggle to be heard at every turn. They are often referenced by their appearance, age, or family life, unlike men, who are depicted as powerful, independent, dominating, and valued.
Women entrepreneurs trying to start their own businesses usually meet difficulties when it comes to securing capital. In lower paying entrepreneurial ventures, many women are finding some hard-won successes as realtors, in the hospitality industry, and even the Avon lady is still in the game.
SEXUAL ASSAULT LAWS
In the United States, well into the 1990s, some states still had laws that held that statutory rape (rape of a minor child) wasn’t rape if the girl was “impure.” The last of those laws went away in 1998 in Mississippi.
Prior to the 1970s, marital rape was exempt from many rape laws. In 1976, Nebraska became the first state to make marital rape a crime. A man could legally rape his wife in North Carolina until 1993. Marital rape is now a crime in all 50 states.
From female soldiers’ rape cases, to human sex trafficking, to workplace harassment, women are all too often hindered in trying to build successful lives for themselves and their families.
While law enforcement for sexual assault, harassment, and abuse is not yet where it needs to be, some areas are showing progress. Most states have criminalized the distribution of sexually explicit images or videos without the individual’s consent. In recent years, punishment for sexual assault is gaining momentum with high profile celebrities and executives being prosecuted and the #MeToo movement bringing more awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and assault in society.