Thanks to the fast spreading nature of news via social media and online news outlets, it is rare that a day goes by without hearing some sort of news about women’s rights. Whether it's political or cultural in nature, these topics affect women and men everywhere.
It doesn’t matter where in the world you live, women’s rights and inequalities will impact the lives of women all around you. With the U.S. presidential election season in full swing, it’s impossible to miss the women-focused political ads promising equal pay. Simultaneously, there are various groups highlighting women who are excelling in STEM fields, despite being in the workplace minority for their fields.
Whatever their objective may be, women’s rights are a centerpiece of our media landscape. While there is still much to be done in the way of women’s rights and equality, these thirteen things remind us of all we have accomplished over the years. From the 19th amendment to the U.S. constitution in 1920, which gave women the right to vote (and was in many ways the catalyst of the women’s rights movement), to more recent victories for women, like addressing everyday needs, including managing money and applying for loans, women and men have fought tirelessly against outdated and absurd rules and legislations that have prevented women from living their lives in the same way that men are awarded without restriction.
These thirteen rights were only awarded to women within the last 80 years. From personal healthcare, credit cards, being an active part of the legal system, to protecting themselves at the workplace, each of these victories for women’s rights remind us how far we have come and how much we have yet to accomplish to ensure all women are treated equally.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 helped women feel more secure in their jobs regardless of whether or not they became pregnant. Prior to the PDA, women could lose their jobs or be discriminated against at work because of their family life. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website notes that the PDA amended the Civil Rights Act to protect women against sexually based discrimination due to pregnancy. This amendment allows women in the U.S. to pursue both a career and family life as they see fit without being concerned about Shaye Haver losing their job due to a pregnancy. While maternity leave in the Untied States still needs some work, the PDA is crucial in protecting women’s rights.
Serving one’s country through the military is a role that is taken with careful consideration. While women have served vital roles to the U.S. military efforts since the 1700s, it wasn’t until 1948 when the U.S. Congress passed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, that women were awarded a permanent ability to enlist in the U.S. armed forces. According to history.org, this act also ensured that female military personal would be held to the same military authority as men, while also allowing women to receive veterans' benefits for their service. More recently, two female Army soliders, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver completed the grueling U.S. Army Ranger course, reestablishing that women are able to preform any military role.
In their article titled “Women’s rights and their money: a timeline from Cleopatra to Lilly Ledbetter”, The Guardian notes that it was not until 1986 that women could retire at the same time as men, and that they could take better paying factory night shift jobs, making this new new development only 29 years old. Giving equal retirement options and the opportunity to work the same higher paying jobs as men, regardless of their schedule, allowed women to give themselves a more secure financial future.
Before 1993, women (and men) in the United States had to rely on the kindness of their workplace paid time off and maternity policy to take off time to care for their newly born child. While the Family Medical Leave Act does have some frustrating loopholes, such as a request for leave 30 days prior to the absencee, the act helps to provide new families with the security of knowing that they can take 12 weeks off from work to bond with their newly born child (or recover from a medical procedure, etc.), while still receiving partial pay and having job security. Although the United States is still leagues behind the rest of the industrialized world when it comes to maternity leave, for many employees, FMLA provides months at home with their new child rather than weeks.
Life without a line of credit via a credit card can make it difficult to make investment purchases or take care of emergency medical expenses. Even with a healthy bank account, having a line of credit affords people the ability to make wise financial planning decisions. However, women were not always afforded this luxury. Prior to the United States Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, banks would not grant women credit cards without having a male cosigner. The U.S. Department of Justice website notes that the Equal Credit Opportunity Act protects credit applicants from discrimination based on their gender, race, marital status, national origin, and other factors. No longer were women reliant on men to make their own financial planning decisions.
Prior to 1963 in the United States, employers could openly discriminate against women through unequal pay based on their sex for preforming the same job as men. While the Equal Pay Act was created as a way to safeguard women from sexual discrimination, which the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission notes includes minimum wage workers, women are still making less money than men for the same jobs. Currently, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) notes that on average, women earn just 77 cents to every $1.00 a man makes. While there is clearly much work to be done in ensuring women receive equal pay to their male counterparts, the Equal Pay Act was the springboard that helped work toward fair pay for women.
Title VII, better known as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was not only a huge triumph for minority groups in halting racial discrimination, but the Civil Rights Act also served to protect women in the workplace. As the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission notes on their website, Title VII includes protections against sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. This important ruling meant that women no longer had to simply “put up” with unwanted sexual advances, comments, or any other harassment from coworkers. Today, Title VII is used to remind new employees about proper workplace conduct and conversations. While this protection is extended to all people regardless of their sex, this act was a stepping stone for women’s rights in the mid 1960s.
Just over 50 years ago, minority groups, the disabled, and women were not afforded any protection against discrimination that was commonplace at the time. In the early 1960s, in line with the Civil Rights movement, Affirmative Action initiatives were beginning to come into place to protect both women and minority groups in both educational and workplace settings. As noted by CivilRights.org, champions for the cause, like U.S. President Lyndon Johnson, fought to ensure every student and employee was given the same opportunities without fear of persecution for their sex or race. Today, Affirmative Action is used to ensure the rights of all workers and students in the ever changing social climate. Without these protections, women could easily lose out on career and educational opportunities simply for being female.
Serving on a jury is an important way that people contribute to their legal system. Women need to serve on juries to properly represent all people, not just men. In Quebec Canada, women were not allowed to serve as jurors until 1971. However, the United Food and Commercial Worker Union - Canada (UFCW Canada) notes that prior to this ruling just over 40 years ago, eight women were arrested and put in jail for protesting exclusively male juries. Although the United States had female jurors during the late 1700s, it took years for laws and allowances that would regularly excuse women from jury duty to be abolished. The National Women’s History Project website notes that it was only under the Blackstone Commentaries that women became allowed to sit on juries as the law sought to bring equality to all people.
Of all the voting that occurs in a democratic nation, federal elections are immensely important. Through voting for candidates in a federal election, voters are able to show their support for candidates whose values are in line with their own. Additionally, voting for federal election candidates ensures those elected will understand the everyday needs and struggles of voters and their families. Despite these important needs for all voters to be heard,Québec Canada did not allow all women to vote until 1940. The Canadian Human Rights Commission website notes that when the Act Granting to Women the Right to Vote and be Eligible as Candidates was signed, women of racial minorities could be exempt from running in elections or voting.
In today’s online centered world, it’s hard to imagine managing your money without a bank account. While you could hoard all of your money at home, the security of a bank account is unmatched. In the United Kingdom, this freedom was not awarded to women until the passing of the Sex Discrimination Act, which passed in 1975. In addition to securing women’s rights to open and have a bank account without having a male counterpart, this act acts much like the United States Pregnancy Discrimination Act in protecting women’s workplace and financial rights. With the ability to have an individual bank account, women of the mid 1970s were freed from the restriction of having a man control or exert power over their finances.
With upcoming United States Presidential elections in 2016, birth control options and women’s reproductive rights are a hot topic in today’s political realm. While today’s debates are largely based upon ethical considerations, years ago these debates would not have even taken place due to the limitations surrounding birth control. While birth control pills were brought to the consumer market in 1960, they were greeted with stigma and were only available in some states. It wasn’t until the 1965 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut that birth control pills became available without restriction. As the PBS article titled “The Supreme Court. Expanding Civil Rights. Landmark Cases. Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)” notes, the ruling found that “a state's ban on the use of contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy.” While birth control has evolved over the years, access to this basic healthcare need is a privilege women have only enjoyed in the last 50 years.
Whether you are pro choice or pro life, abortion is a sensitive and polarizing topic. Often discussed in political realms, abortion is an issue that goes beyond ethics or medicine and can encompass a wide range of social, political, and personal factors. In perhaps one of the most well known court cases in the United States history, the 1973 ruling in the Roe v. Wade case made it illegal for states to discriminate against or persecute women for obtaining an abortion. While today’s politics are often centered around whether this ruling should be overturned has escalated both pro life and pro choice efforts, the access to safe, medically sound abortions has granted women in need a way to terminate a pregnancy for whatever reason in a safe environment.