gender equality

  • July 1, 2015
    Under The Bus
    How Working Women Are Being Run Over
    Caroline Fredrickson

    by Caroline Fredrickson, President, American Constitution Society for Law & Policy

    When she was 18, my great-grandmother Mathilda Olafsson left Sweden to escape poverty, sailing alone in steerage to Boston where she was lucky to find a job as a maid. Like countless immigrant women, Mathilda was subject to sexual harassment, underpayment, and abusively long hours. As she endured backbreaking labor and meals consisting of her employers’ scraps, she hoarded her meager earnings, working toward a better life.

    Growing up, I found Mathilda’s story ‒ so far in the past, so different from today ‒ inspirational. But sadly, even after the enactment of various labor laws and worker protections, many working women are still enduring the abuses that my great-grandmother suffered. The truth is, domestic workers and workers in other undervalued, female-dominated professions have little more legal protection than Mathilda and her peers had.

    Americans tend to think working conditions aren't so bad today; the U.S. has prohibited discrimination against women, mandated equal pay for equal work, and adopted family leave legislation. But few Americans know that the progressive laws designed to improve wages and working conditions left out large portions of the working population. That’s because during the New Deal, President Franklin Roosevelt struck bargains with “Dixiecrats,” trading the rights of African American and female workers for votes in support of a minimum wage, overtime, and the right to join a union.

    As a result, certain workers – including nannies, housekeepers, farmworkers, small business employees, part-time workers, independent contractors, and temporary workers – have almost zero protection under U.S. law. Not coincidentally, these workers are disproportionately female and people of color.

  • August 29, 2014
    What Women Want
    An Agenda For The Women's Movement
    Deborah L. Rhode

    by Deborah L. Rhode, the Director of the Center on the Legal Profession, the  E.W. McFarland Professor of Law,  and the Director of the Program on Social Entrepreneurship at Stanford University 

    In a New Yorker cartoon, a woman frostily informs her obviously skeptical husband, “Yes, Harold, I do speak for all women.” This is not a claim any contemporary feminist will readily make. Women do not speak with one voice on women’s issues. But to build a powerful political movement, we have to be prepared to generalize about the interests of women as a group. What would most women want if they were fully informed and free to choose, and the goal was true equality between the sexes? 

    A central problem in securing such gender equality is the “no problem” problem: the lack of consensus that there still is a serious problem, or one that they have any capacity or responsibility to address. Yet on virtually every major dimension of social status, financial well-being, and physical safety, women still fare worse than men. Sexual violence remains common, and reproductive rights are by no means secure. Women assume disproportionate burdens in the home and pay a price in the world outside it.  But these issues are not cultural priorities. What Women Want (Oxford University Press, 2014), argues that this has to change and sets forth a compelling agenda for the women’s movement.

  • April 28, 2011
    Guest Post

    By Neena Chaudhry, Senior Counsel, National Women’s Law Center

    On Monday, The New York Times released a poll, in conjunction with CBS News, showing that nearly half of Americans who are familiar with Title IX believe it needs stricter enforcement.

    The survey was conducted last month, but it would have been very interesting to see what the results would have been if respondents had first read the other New York Times Title IX piece that ran the same day: “College Teams, Relying on Deception, Undermine Gender Equity.” The article goes on to describe how athletic programs across the country manipulate their athletic rosters to artificially boost women’s participation numbers in order to claim compliance. 

    Title IX requires that schools receiving federal funds not discriminate on the basis of sex, including in sports.  Most Americans think it’s been doing a good job.  In the same Times/CBS poll, 78 percent of people familiar with Title IX said they believe it’s been a positive force for women’s opportunities in sports.

    It’s easy to see why. Since Title IX’s passage in 1972, women’s participation in collegiate athletics has increased to nearly six times the pre-Title IX rate. Multiple generations of girls have grown up shooting hoops and scoring goals, going on to earn college scholarships and represent their schools in competition.  

    Despite this progress, women still lack access to equal opportunities.  According to the NCAA, women in Division I colleges, while representing 53 percent of the student body, receive only 45 percent of the participation opportunities, 34 percent of the total money spent on athletics, 45 percent of the total athletic scholarship dollars, and 32 percent of recruiting dollars.