August 26th is National Women’s Equality Day—a day commemorating the heroic fight for women’s voting rights in the United States. While the roots of this national observance stem from the 19th Amendment and the tireless work of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, today, it serves as an important opportunity to reflect on past and present issues in gender equality.
As we celebrate Women’s Equality Day this year, we want to spotlight the ongoing fight for equal rights and highlight three extraordinary female leaders from WellRight who persevere and inspire future generations of women.
What Is Women’s Equality Day?
Women’s Equality Day was initially established to celebrate the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted white women the right to vote on August 26th, 1920. And while this concession was undoubtedly a leap forward for the Women’s Suffrage Movement, it did not mean the fight for civil rights was over.
In fact, over a century later, the fight for gender equality is still taking place.
Going back to the 1970s, Women’s Equality Day saw a shift from a celebration of voting rights toward a celebration of the women’s liberation movement and a time for organizing and protesting. But to fully understand how Women’s Equality Day became the observance it is today, it’s crucial to understand the complicated history of women’s rights in America.
A Brief Timeline of Women’s Rights and American Progress
Although the 19th Amendment gave white women the right to vote, it purposefully left out all other ethnicities, including Black and Native American women. It wouldn’t be until over 40 years later that all American women (regardless of skin color) were given the right to vote.
Of course, voting rights aren’t the only civil rights women were after. From granting citizenship to equal pay, here is an abbreviated timeline of American progress in gender equity following the passage of the 19th Amendment:
- The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924: Extended citizenship to Native American women (and men), granting them the right to vote, regardless of tribal affiliation.
- The Magnuson Act of 1943: Repealed America’s previous Chinese exclusion laws, allowing immigration, naturalization, and thus, voting rights for Chinese American women.
- The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952: Allowed all Asian American women to gain citizenship and thus, the right to vote.
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963: Amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to protect against pay discrimination based on sex.
- The Voting Rights Act of 1965: Sought to end the discriminatory voting practices against African American women and men.
The Barriers to True Gender Equity
Looking at this abridged timeline, it might seem as though women won the fight for equality—but as we mentioned, the battle is far from over.
While many of these laws had honest intentions and there has been steady progress in gender equity, the results have been mixed at best. Here are just a few of the issues women currently still face in the workplace:
The Gender Pay Gap
Despite passing the Equal Pay Act about 60 years ago, female workers still make less than men do on average.
According to Pew Research, there was significant progress between the 1980s and the 2000s as women’s wages went from 65 cents for every dollar a man made doing the same work to 80 cents per dollar. However, in the last 20 years, this wage gap has only closed by 2 cents.
Today, the average woman makes 18% less than her male counterparts performing the same exact job.
The Glass Ceiling
In addition to the gender pay gap, American women must also contend with the “glass ceiling,” or the patriarchal barrier preventing women from being considered for or promoted to leadership positions.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) currently ranks the U.S. 19th out of 29 of the most developed nations on its Glass Ceiling Index, which looks at gender equality in the workplace.
Even when women earn their way to leadership positions, they don’t always get the recognition they deserve.
According to a recent McKinsey survey, this is part of the reason nearly 43% of women leaders experience burnout at work, compared to just over 30% of men. At the same time, the report found that women of color face additional layers of discrimination through microaggressions and other barriers to advancement.
Related Reading: How Burnout Affects Women
3 C-Suite Executives Paving the Way
As we’ve seen, progress toward gender equality has never been easy. Even when organizations do what they can to empower and uplift their female leaders and employees, it isn’t always enough to overcome all the social barriers and discrimination women face.
Yet, in the face of these challenges, remarkable women continue to defy the odds, inspire others, and lead the way toward a better future.
To get a better picture of how women have persevered and broken down barriers, we spoke to three of WellRight’s esteemed C-suite executives to learn what Women’s Equality Day means to them and their journey as leaders.
Promoting Gender Equality in the Workplace With a Holistic Wellness Program
At WellRight, we recognize that true workplace progress relies on the wellbeing of each and every employee—and gender equality is an essential part of that.
Without fair treatment for all in the workplace, it’s impossible for female employees to thrive. Holistic wellness programs leverage a multifaceted approach to empower and uplift each individual, promoting a healthy culture and overall work environment.
Reach out to us today to discover how a holistic wellness program can promote gender equality in your organization.