Washington Area Women's Foundation

Celebrate Women's Equality Day by calling on candidates to make equality a reality.

Today is Women’s Equality Day – the anniversary of the day that women finally won the right to vote in 1920.  In a year when a woman was a serious contender for the Presidency and another woman is Speaker of the House, we should take a moment to celebrate how much has changed thanks to the work and sacrifices of the suffragettes.

But when that moment is over, we need to start having a serious conversation about how far things still have to go.

Ironically, today is also the day that the Census Bureau releases the annual poverty statistics. It spells out just how unequal things still are for women when it comes to dollars and cents.

Single-women headed families are still far more likely to be in poverty than families headed by married-couples or single men.  More than 28 percent of families headed by a woman live in poverty.  In fact, of the 7.6 million families living in poverty, 4.1 million (well over half) are headed by single-women.

This has consequences not only for the women themselves, but for their children as well.  Between 2006 and 2007, the poverty rate for children increased. And, children living in women-headed families are far more likely to be poor. Forty-three percent of children under 18 living with a single mother were living in poverty and 54 percent of children under six living with a single mother were living in poverty as well.

What is one of the major reasons that women are poorer than men?

The fact is that women still earn less than men. In 2007, women earned 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man. 

This is the smallest the wage gap has ever been in history. So, let’s recognize it for what it is – a small step in the right direction.  But, it is a very small step. The reality is that the wage gap has barely increased in the past 20 years.  In 1983, the wage gap was 19.9 percent.  Today it is 22 cents.

So, to honor Women’s Equality Day, every person reading this blog should go out and demand that all candidates for office champion laws and programs that will assist women to have jobs that pay enough that they can support their families.  We need bold leaders if we are going to address the big issues like the wage gap and the poverty rate for women.

I know that The Women’s Foundation community is filled with the strong, visionary women that we need to get this job done.

Sharon Levin is The Women’s Foundation’s Director of Major Events and Policy Advocacy.