“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
Today is the 90th anniversary of women’s legal right to vote.
The Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787. It took 133 years for women to achieve voting equality. In the decades since 1920, women still have not achieved genuine equality.
Today’s younger women take their right to vote as well as other accomplishments towards gender equality for granted. They do not remember (or may not even have been taught) that once a woman could not vote, could not hold public office, could not own property, could not legally use birth control. The list of what women could not do is virtually endless. The battle for political, social and economic equality is far from complete.
To the younger women of today, I caution, “Do not assume that what you now have will always exist. There are those who would gladly take it from you.”
Although there are more women in the United States than men (97.4 men to 100 women), women are still a long way from parity in our country. Just recently we have seated the third woman (simultaneously) on the nine-member Supreme Court. In the 111th United States Congress, there are 76 women serving in the 435-member U.S. House and 17 in the 100-member U.S. Senate, which is the highest number of women to hold Congressional office. That’s 17 percent of the nation’s highest legislative body, the body the makes the laws that we all must live by.
A total of 27 states have never had a female governor. Currently only six women are serving as governors of U.S. states. In the 2009 legislative session, there are 1,788 women legislators serving in the 50 states. Women hold 24.2 percent of legislative seats in the 50 states, a ratio that has increased by less than 4 percentage points over the past fifteen years. Thirty women serve in the legislative bodies of the United States Territories and the District of Columbia.
Just seven women rule Global 500 companies. Fifteen of America’s Fortune 500 companies are run by women, and a total of 28 Fortune 1000 companies have women in the top job.
In a 2009 report titled Women’s Earnings in 2008, the U.S. Labor Department reported women’s median wages to be 79.9% of men’s. Yet women now dominate men in every degree level of higher education. And girls exceed boys in high school graduation rates. The most current figures: two-thirds of boys graduate from high school – a rate that’s 7 points lower than the female rate.
So yes, baby, we’ve come a long way. But we most certainly are not “there yet.”
On a lighter note, readers may enjoy Ellen Goodman’s “Equal Rites Awards for year’s worst affronts to women.” The categories include:
• International Ayatollah Award
• Blind Justice Award
• Raging Hormonal Imbalance Award
• Backlash Trailblazer Award
• Prize for Marketing Ms-haps
• Sisterhood is (Not Always) Powerful
• Post-Feminist Booty Prize
• Boys Will Be Boys Award
• Male-Practice Award
• Dubious Equality Award
• Double Standard Bearer