'Why in Five' - Women's Rights

Why in Five - Women's Rights

What’s the state of Women’s Rights today?

The role of women in our nation has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Today women comprise roughly half the United States workforce, and 2016 could see the election of the nation’s first female president. Despite these advancements, substantial inequalities remain. Our nation’s public policies and workplace practices are often based on outdated assumptions about who works and who stays home, thinking that leaves women and their families behind. 

What special challenges do women face?

  • The gender pay gap. According to a recent congressional report, a full-time female worker annually earns $10,800 less than her male counterpart, based on median annual earnings. That discrepancy can add up to nearly half a million dollars in lost wages over a career. In 2014, the poverty rate for women was 14.7 percent compared to 10.9 percent for men. 
  • Childcare costs. In the majority of states and the District of Columbia, the annual costs of center care for an infant are higher than the tuition for a year of college at a public university; and in 22 states and the District of Columbia, the costs exceed 40 percent of the median annual income of single mothers. 
  • Lack of paid family and medical leave. Only 13 percent of workers in the U.S. have access to paid family leave through their employers. At some point nearly all workers need to take time away from work to deal with serious personal issues or to care for a new child. 
  • Attacks against women’s health and reproductive rights. Lawmakers at the state and federal levels have made it increasingly difficult for women to have safe access to abortions and contraception.
  • Domestic violence. In their lifetime, 1 in 3 women have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. Domestic violence affects women of all ages, socioeconomic status and in every community. 

What strategies help women?

Gaining a political voice. Although women continue to be under represented in politics, holding political office, at all levels of government, ensures the voices of women are heard. 

Mandate that all health insurance plans fully cover contraception and require employers to provide paid sick and family and medical leave days. A greater investment in childcare and early education programs is also needed. These programs both help children succeed in school and enable parents to work.

How does union membership support working women? 

Union membership has many advantages for women. It brings wage setting into the open, and helps ensure that wages are based on objective criteria such as skill, effort and responsibility. It also offers benefits such as pensions, better heath benefits and higher wages.

Women make up a large and growing proportion of labor union members. In 2014, women comprised 45.5 percent of all union members nationally. Women represent 75 percent of NYSUT’s membership. 

What can you do? 

Organize a women’s committee in your local: https://www.ilr.cornell.edu/worker-institute/news/guide-organizing-womens-committees

Take a stand against domestic violence. Here are 16 ways in 16 days: http://www.ncadv.org/act/takeastandmain/16-ways

Advocate for paid family and medical leave, reproductive rights, and paycheck fairness: http://www.nationalpartnership.org/do-something/take-action.html

Celebrating Women:

Celebrate Women's History Month:

Women’s History Month, in March, celebrates the accomplishments women have made in society. NYSUT celebrated Women’s History Month this year with a printable poster of Harriet Tubman, acclaimed female abolitionist and humanitarian. Tubman also participated in the women’s suffrage movement. Find a description and download of the poster here:


Celebrate Women's Equality Day, August 26th: http://www.nwhp.org/resources/commemorations/womens-equality-day/

Lesson plan resources:

“Women’s Suffrage”

Lesson plan for teaching students in grades 6-12 the history of women’s suffrage in the United Sates, and its impact today


“Women’s Suffrage Teacher’s Guide”

Lesson plan for students in grades 1-8.  Teaches the history of women’s suffrage worldwide, with a particular emphasis on civic vocabulary and personal connections to the material.


“Women's History Month: 6 Lesson Plan Resources for Teachers”

A great resource with a variety of links to lesson plans dealing with female achievement in fields of history, art, science, and more.


“The Women’s Movement”

Provides a variety of lesson plans for various grade levels, focusing on both Suffrage and Second-wave Feminism movements.



Institute for Women’s Policy Research


Five Facts About the Gender Pay Gap


National Partnership for Women & Families


Gender Pay Inequality, Consequences for Women, Families and the Economy, published by the U.S. Congressional Joint Economic Committee  


Moving women & families forward: a state roadmap to economic justice


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