Women’s Equality Day Is Aug. 26

Equality in the workplace benefits everyone, not just women

By Rena Gorlin August 21, 2018
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​The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which established women's suffrage, was certified on Aug, 26, 1920; 53 years later, Congress designated the date Women's Equality Day to commemorate that milestone. 

While the right to vote is no longer "denied or abridged ... on account of sex," today, 45 years after the first observance of Women's Equality Day in 1973, other rights are still being denied or abridged on account of sex. Workplace issues yet to be resolved include pay inequity, sexual harassment, discrimination and unequal opportunity. 

HR is in a position to recognize and change that. The profession has the highest percentage of women in managerial positions—74 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). What's more, SHRM-certified professionals are responsible for maintaining compliance with legal provisions on equality in the workplace. (The HR Expertise section of the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge covers U.S. Employment Law & Regulations and Diversity & Inclusion, among other pertinent functional areas.) 

A Forbes article on the importance of Women's Equality Day noted that "Equality is not a female issue, it's a social and economic imperative." With nearly equal numbers of men and women in today's workplace, equal treatment of men and women benefits all. 

Numbers from the Department of Labor speak for themselves: Women make up almost 47 percent of U.S. workers; women own nearly 10 million businesses; 70 percent of mothers with minor-aged children work; and women's participation in the labor force has grown from 33 percent (in 1948) to 57 percent (in 2016). Yet 39 percent of women work in female-dominated occupations, and women remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) occupations, as well as many others. Continuing challenges cited in the Forbes article include "C-suites where less than one in five leaders are women," a persistent gender wage gap, inadequate family leave, "subtle forces (such as unconscious bias) and not-so-subtle forces (such as blatant sexism)." 

Even in the first presidential proclamation recognizing Women's Equality Day in 1973, President Richard Nixon stated that while progress had been made "by attacking sex discrimination through our laws and by paving new avenues to equal economic opportunity for women[,] ... much still remains to be done. American women, though they represent a majority of our population, still suffer from myriad forms of discrimination. … Because I firmly believe that women should not be denied equal protection of the laws of this Nation and equal opportunity to participate fully in our national life, I reaffirm again my support for the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. … I hope it will be speedily ratified." The document concluded that "For the cause of equal rights and opportunities for women is inseparable from the cause of human dignity and equal justice for all." 

The Women's Equality Day proclamation issued in 2017 made special note of female entrepreneurs, affordable child care and access to STEM training, and called on the nation to "celebrate the achievements of women." 

More Information on Women and Equality 

Rena Gorlin, J.D., is an independent writer and editor in Washington, D.C.

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