On Aug. 26, 1920, the amendment guaranteeing the right to vote for women officially became part of the U.S. Constitution. The anniversary of this historic achievement deserves recognition, celebration and a huge “thank you” to those brave women who faced beatings, starvation, torture and false imprisonment so that women today might have the privilege of casting a ballot. It is 95 years later and unfortunately, equality continues to elude many women.
Are we all truly equal when women, particularly women of color, are negatively impacted by almost every existing economic policy from low wages, outdated workplace policies that deny women paid leave, scheduling rules, affordable child care, fair promotions, to cuts in public services, pregnancy discrimination and access to health care?
Today, on Women’s Equality Day, it is clear we must work harder to ensure equality for all women. We know there is still work to be done and I know there are policies State Legislatures can pass which would benefit all of us by improving opportunities for women and their families.
We can pass real policies that will improve the lives of women and their families and make real progress toward equality but it won’t happen unless everybody — elected officials, voters, men and women, demand change. We don’t need to debate whether one party or another has done more to help or harm women. Working together we can assess where we are and what actions are necessary to move forward on policies that will make women’s lives better. It is time to stand united to address the barriers in the areas of economic policy and women’s health that will improve our lives and our state.
The status quo is inadequate and passing more restrictive policies is unacceptable: Our constituents deserve action on the issues that actually impact women. Progress has been stalled for far too long. It’s time to update the economy with policy changes that reflect the modern realities facing millions of women who are working both inside and outside the home to support themselves and their families. These women care much more about the concrete actions that legislators take to improve the lives of the women they represent than about fruitless political debates and restrictive policies that stand in the way of women making progress in our state, leaving families worse off than they are now.
When we talk to the women in our districts the issues they care most about vary, but the message is loud and clear – they want to see an end to the partisan bickering and political bank shots. They want to see policies that reflect our values, an economy that works for all families, and real progress for everyone in our state.
It took 72 years of campaigning for women to win the right to vote. Since then, 95 years have passed. We still have a gender gap when it comes to pay, promotions, health care and retirement. We see relatively few women in leadership roles in elected offices, the courts and boardrooms. We need to pick up the pace of change substantially, if we want to reach parity in the near future. We not only need leaders who will do the right thing, we need them to take action now to build a more equitable future.
Ultimately, it will take more voices and votes from women and men, asking each elected official to stop focusing on wedge issues that divide us. It’s time for us all to stand with women and demand that they start focusing on policies that will help ensure “equality for all.”
Rep. Stacey Y. Abrams is the Georgia House Minority Leader, the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly, and the first African-American to lead in the House. Rep. Kathy Hawken is a Republican member of the North Dakota House of Representatives, representing District 46. She was first elected to the chamber in 1996. Hawken has served as Chair of Women in Government.