All Things Being Equal, Or Not: Women’s Equality Day, Wednesday, August 26

Women's Equality Day

Women’s Equality Day was designated August 26 by the U.S. Congress in 1973. It was championed by Representative Bella Abzug (Democrat from N.Y.) to remember the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which granted women the right to vote in 1920. Women’s Equality Day is the next step after the vote. It highlights the work happening in the United States and around the world to gain full equality. Today, Women’s Equality Day celebrates the achievements of women’s rights activists and reminds us of the unique daily struggles that women face. Women’s Equality Day is a call to action in the struggle for equal treatment of women and women’s rights.

What are the Issues?

Equal pay with men
Reproductive rights, including both access to birth control and abortion
Equal opportunities to education and employment
Fighting suppression and violence towards women
Raising awareness about discrimination and stereotyping.

The Current Situation

The good news here in the United States is while the wage gap between men and women still impacts women’s economic power, and gender-based discrimination still plagues workplaces and business transactions, there has been great improvement since 1970. However, according to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA Progress organization studies, gender equality in the United States has slowed or stalled since 2000. The study’s summary states, “The slowdown on some indicators and stall on others suggests that further progress requires substantial institutional and cultural change. Progress may require increases in men’s participation in household and care work, governmental provision of child care, and adoption by employers of policies that reduce gender discrimination and help both men and women combine jobs with family care responsibilities.”

Elnora Monroe Babcock (1852-1934)  Suffrage leader, writer, and publicist was born in Warren County PA and was a powerhouse in the marketing and success of the 19th Amendment, women's right to vote.
Elnora Monroe Babcock (1852-1934)
Suffrage leader, writer, and publicist was born in Warren County PA and was a powerhouse in the marketing and success of the 19th Amendment, women’s right to vote.

Our Region of the World

Western NY and northwestern PA’s history is rooted in the rural farm society. Women were equal on the farm. They were their husband’s true other half; half the work, half the struggle, half the joy. We come from a strong, fierce line of women who are not put off by hard work or finding another way around a problem. Elnora Babcock (1852-1934) was one of these fierce women. She grew up in rural Warren County, PA, married and moved to Dunkirk, N.Y. She was lucky to be well educated and married to a supportive spouse. Professor Babcock was the Dunkirk School Superintendent. According to the SUNY JCC Women’s History website, “In 1894, she was appointed as the New York State suffrage association’s Chairman for Press Work and in 1899 she rose to the position of Superintendent of Press Work for the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). As the publicist for the national movement Babcock wrote and organized the distribution of purposeful newspaper articles advocating women’s suffrage, sending out approximately 200,000 articles annually.” This was all done by typewriter and the US Postal Service out of her home on Washington St.! She was progressive and practical.

Jamestown Community College Associate Professor of History Traci Langworthy is working on Mrs. Babcock’s nomination for the National Votes for Women Trail. “Western N.Y. should have at least a couple of markers on this trail. We have a strong legacy promoting women’s rights.” As for the current state of women’s equality, Ms. Langworthy said, “At JCC there are some students that are very strong. I have had some brilliant women students that have overcome many life struggles and they will go on to do wonderful things. I have hope for the future. They are not shy; they back up their arguments and view points and they do the work.”

Kate Ebersole, Interim Executive Director of the Jamestown YWCA says, “the YWCA is supporting women through our day care, our UPK and After School programs, plus our women’s shelter and TEAM program (helping teenage mothers graduate from high school while also learning how to be a parent). The Board of Directors is working on the strategic planning process. They are making sure Empowering Women is a focus in the plan.” Again, practical and progressive.

Women in the Workplace

“We have strong and intelligent women in business leadership positions across Chautauqua County and we are better for it as an economy and as a community,” stated Todd Tranum, President/CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce. “This is important in that women tend to take a more inclusive leadership approach, have strong communication skills and tend to be highly resilient to adversity. It is my hope that having women in these important leadership roles will inspire more girls in our schools and across our region to seek positions in business, politics and areas of the economy where women are currently under-represented. My observation is that there are more women in leadership roles in Chautauqua County than there were 20 years ago or even 10 years ago. Today, I see more women running manufacturing facilities, leading large health care organizations and managing not-for-profits.”

Mr. Tranum listed several women in leadership roles in Chautauqua County. “I know this is not a comprehensive list,” he said, “they are Mary LaRowe, CEO, Brooks Hospital; Kelly Borrello, GM, Sunset Bay Beach Club and two other businesses; Katie Pucci-Schaefer, Pucci’s; Diane Hannum, Executive Director, Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation; Katie Geise, Executive Director, Workforce Investment Board; Anna Dibble, Plant Manager, Cummins; Heather Turner, Owner/President, Blackstone Advanced Technologies; Amy Rohler, Executive Director, United Way; Tori Irgang, Executive Director, CCRF; Kristy Zabrodsky, Shareholder, Buffamante Whipple Buttafaro; Rhonda Johnson, President, Weber Knapp and Denise Jones, CEO, Resource Center.”

Studies show that women at the top levels have made the greatest gains in closing the wage gap while those at the lowest and middle level have fallen behind. In 2018 women were paid 83% (using median values) of men’s wages doing the same job, with the bulk of the inequity in the lower level occupations. According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA Progress study, “there is strong suggestive evidence that employers take the sex composition of jobs into account when setting their pay levels… This issue, called “comparable worth” or “pay equity” in the 1990s, never led to legislation, so it is a type of discrimination that is generally not illegal in the United States. In sum, without deliberate efforts to promote both cultural and institutional change along the lines we have discussed, progress toward gender equality may remain slow or stalled.”

Focus and Fire

Candidate Tracy Mitrano is opposing Congressman Tom Reed for the NY 23 district seat. She is an accomplished cybersecurity professional, teacher and mother. She has found support for her campaign because of the shared values she has with western New York voters. “I have found it easy to be a woman in politics. I am a mother, I am from western New York, have lived here for thirty years. I value family, friends and community,” she said. The same can be said for the early suffragettes from the 1800s and 1900s. The 1960s and forward have brought out very vocal proponents for women’s rights on all levels. These issues will never be ignored again. There is a fire among the trailblazers in the current Congress and the young women coming up the ranks are ready for the long fight. Women changed the political landscape in the 2018 midterm election. They ran in record numbers and won a historic number of House and Senate seats — 102 women now serve in the House, 23.5 percent of the 435 total seats. As good as that is, the US ranks 75th in the world for numbers of women in government. We have a long way to go.

The Future

Overall, American women have made great strides in the past fifty years, but so much more should and will be done. According to CNBC: at current rates, the global gender gap across a range of areas will not close for another 108 years, and according to the World Economic Forum the gap in political participation won’t close for another 99 years. We all have to do our part, men and women.

How to Celebrate Women’s Equality Day
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Pay tribute to the amazing females that have made a massive difference in the movement. Spend some time doing research online to educate yourself further on the matter. You can spread information with your friends, family members, and followers online so that you can increase awareness amongst all of your loved ones.

Register to vote if you have not already. Exercising your constitutional protected right to vote is the best thing you can do on this date. Local and state elections happen on a yearly basis, so you need to make sure your registration is current. You can use the Vote.Gov website to discover how to register based on the state you are located in.

Visit a women’s museum. The start of the women’s right to vote was in Seneca Falls NY. They have a great museum. There are many others across the nation.

Finally, if you run your own business, you should use this day as an opportunity to make sure that you can confidently say your business is one that has achieved equality across the board. Is there a gender pay gap at your business?

It’s time to ask yourself why are women considered less worthy than men? Regardless of race or economic status, why? If you don’t have an answer then it’s time to fix this wrong.