The Leadership Conference is working diligently to see that Tom Perez is confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Perez is an eminently qualified public servant and consensus builder who has dedicated his career to ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and have the opportunity to succeed. He has served with integrity and distinction at the local, state and national level, compiling an outstanding record of achievement.
Women have fought - in the courts and the legislatures, as well as in the streets and the forums of public opinion - for the right to vote, to hold property, to be elected to public office, to gain an education, to hold certain kinds of jobs, and to receive pay equal to men. In addition, women face unique kinds of discrimination based on gender, such as sexual harassment and job discrimination on the basis of pregnancy.
December 18, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the United Nations' adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) – a comprehensive international treaty that outlines standards for ratifying countries to meet in the treatment and rights of women.
CEDAW is a critical tool that countries can use to promote the adoption of national laws, policies, and practices to ensure that women and girls live free from violence, have access to quality education, and have the right to participate fully in the economic, political, and social sectors of their society.
Ratifying countries must report to the U.N. every four years on their compliance with the treaty. It has been ratified by 186 countries. The United States is one of only seven countries that have not, along with Sudan, Iran, and Somalia.
The Leadership Conference is currently leading a campaign to urge the U.S. to ratify CEDAW. U.S. ratification of the treaty is critical to advancing women's rights and to restoring the credibility of the U.S. as a country committed to protecting human rights at home and abroad.
November 5, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Today marks the anniversary of Shirley Chisholm's election to Congress in 1968. Chisholm, a Democrat who represented New York's 12th Congressional District for seven terms from 1969 to 1983, was the first Black woman elected to Congress. In 1972, Chisholm became the first Black woman from a major political party to run for president.
Before her political career, Chisholm earned a BA from Brooklyn College and an MA from Columbia University in elementary education and became known as an expert on early childhood education. She worked as a nursery school teacher, a director of a nursery and a child care center, and an educational consultant. She also volunteered with organizations like the Bedford-Stuyvesant Political League and the League of Women Voters, which eventually led to her political career.
Chisholm first ran for the New York State Assembly, where she served from 1964 to 1968. When asked why she became involved in politics, she said, "The people wanted me." She then decided to run for Congress in 1968 with the slogan "unbought and unbossed," which accurately reflected her strong personality. She won the congressional seat in an upset victory over Independent candidate James Farmer and Republican candidate Ralph Carrano.
October 21, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
A new report by Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress is calling attention to changing gender dynamics of the American family and workplace and this shift's potential to affect public policy and policies that businesses adopt.
"The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything" found that half of all American workers are women, that mothers are the primary breadwinner or co-breadwinner in two-thirds of American families, and that women are now more likely than men to graduate from college.
However, the report also explains that in spite of these changes, women are still earning only 77 cents for each dollar men earn and are still difficult to find in leading positions of America's most successful companies. In addition, the rise of women in the workplace has sparked serious debate about how children are affected growing up without a stay-at-home parent.
Based upon these findings, the report argues that all American institutions must adapt to the new dynamic of the workforce and family by embracing policies that help working American families and businesses, like flexible work hours, paid medical leave, child care, and elderly care.
August 26, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Today marks the 89th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Ratified in 1920, the amendment gave women the right to vote. Women had been gaining suffrage, or the right to vote, on a state-by-state basis throughout the early 20th century, but the amendment granted all U.S. women full voting rights.
The amendment's ratification was the culmination of the Women's Suffrage Movement. Women's suffrage was first proposed in 1848 by participants of the Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention, which included Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott.
The movement picked up steam when Alice Paul, president of the National Women's Party, lead eight thousand women in picketing the White House the day before Woodrow Wilson's inauguration in 1913. Women's active participation in the war effort during World War I also helped the movement gain support.
June 22, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Senator Ted Kennedy, D. Mass., speaking at a "Save Title IX" press conference hosted by members of Congress, athletes and women's groups to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of Title IX in June 2005.
This week we commemorate the 37th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which banned gender discrimination from all education programs and extracurricular activities in federally funded schools.
While the law did not originally make any reference to athletics, it is famous for altering schools' athletic policies to increase female participation in sports and establish gender equality in athletic budgets and competitions. Before the law passed in 1972, girls made up only 7 percent of high school sports participants. Now, more than 40 percent of high school athletes are female, according to data from the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Title IX has also dramatically improved educational opportunities for women and increased their participation in higher education. Before the law passed, 42 percent of college students were women. During the 2003-2004 school year, women composed 57 percent of the students in universities and colleges. It also has become easier for women to assume higher-skilled positions in their occupational fields, such as corporate executives, politicians, and college presidents.
Despite Title IX's advances to curtail gender discrimination in educational and athletic programs, there are still gender disparities, particularly in the fields of mathematics, science, engineering, and technology. In 2003, women composed only 30 percent of the doctorate degrees in science and 9 percent in engineering. Additionally, very few women continue on to high-level faculty positions in these fields.
Since its enactment, Title IX has been frequently challenged in court , but two recent Supreme Court decisions have upheld and expanded Title IX's reach. In 1992, Franklin v. Gwinnett County Public Schools, the Supreme Court ruled that students who are victims of sexual harassment and discrimination could be rewarded monetary damages. And in 2005, the Court ruled in Jackson v. Birmingham Board of Education that Title IX prevents schools from retaliating against individuals who protest gender discrimination, yet another step toward achieving gender equality.
May 19, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis
Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court voted (7-2) to reject a pregnancy discrimination claim in AT&T; v. Hulteen. In the case, four female AT&T; workers and retirees said that the system used by AT&T; to calculate pension benefits should give women who took pregnancy leave before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978 the same credit for time not at work as employees with other types of disabilities received.
Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, called the Court's decision "disgraceful, unfair, and a terrible blow to the equal opportunity laws women and people of color have long relied on."
"This ruling ... undermines Congress’s intent in passing the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to ensure that women would never again be adversely affected by their pregnancies, and denies Ms. Hulteen and her colleagues the equal compensation to which they are entitled," said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center.
May 6, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
On average, women make 78 cents for every dollar men make. Even though the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which will make it easier for employees to challenge pay discrimination in court, is now law, it alone is not enough to deter employers from paying women lower salaries than men for equal work.
The Paycheck Fairness Act will amend and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), which was designed to abolish pay disparities based on gender, by closing loopholes that made it hard for employees to prove pay discrimination and forbidding employers from retaliating against employees that share salary information. It passed the House in January at the same time as the Ledbetter bill, but is still pending in the Senate.
The Act will also make it possible for employees that have been discriminated against on the basis of gender will be able to seek unlimited compensatory and punitive damages. Currently, only employees that are discriminated against for race or national origin are able to do so. The EPA only provides for back pay awards and liquidated damages, which is a sum to be paid in the event a contract is broken that is agreed upon by both parties before the contract is signed.
Deborah Vagins, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said that this will help women of color who often can not isolate whether their discrimination is the result of race or gender. African-American women earn 67 cents for every dollar that White men do, and Hispanic women earn approximately 58 cents for every dollar that White men do.
April 28, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
The gap between the wages of men and women work for the federal government has declined over the last 20 years, according to a report released today by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). In 2007, women made 89 cents for every dollar made by men in 2007, up from 72 cents in 1988.
The report, titled "Women's Pay: Gender Pay Gap in the Federal Workforce Narrows as Differences in Occupation, Education, and Experience Diminish," attributes the decline to the fact that men and women are now more likely to have the same level of education, the same years of experience working in the federal government, and are more likely to hold the same type of jobs at all levels of the federal workforce.
The report's release today comes as many Americans celebrate Equal Pay Day.
First celebrated in 1996, the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) created Equal Pay Day to call attention to disparities in salary between men and women. Each year it is observed on a Tuesday in April because that is the day in which an average woman's earnings catch up with a man's from the previous week. This year, President Obama declared April 28 as National Equal Pay Day.
Despite the relative good news of the GAO report, in the general workforce, full-time working women currently make approximately 78 cents for every dollar that men make – and the gap is even greater for women of color.
March 25, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
Demonstration of protest and mourning for victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of March 25, 1911.
On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City, an event that galvanized the city and sparked a movement that led to legislation that improved factory safety and workers' protections.
Nearly 150 workers died in the fire, unable to escape from the building due to locked exits and a broken fire escape. It was the most tragic industrial disaster in the history of New York City, and was the worst workplace disaster in the city until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The Triangle Shirtwaist Company manufactured women's blouses, which were called "shirtwaists" or simply "waists" at the time. Most of the company's 600 workers were female immigrants from Eastern Europe, Italy and Germany, some as young as 12, who were paid a mere six or seven dollars a week.
The origins of the fire are unknown, but the fire sparked efforts to improve safety laws and workers' compensation laws.
The International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU), which grew in size and political power in the wake of the fire, organized a large rally and the Women’s Trade Union League campaigned to investigate working conditions for laborers and collected testimonies.
The governor of New York set up a Factory Investigating Commission, which conducted hearings across the state for five years. As a result, vital factory safety legislation was passed and new workers' compensation laws were pased.
The building that housed the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, now called the Brown Building, is a national historic landmark. The UNITE HERE union, which includes ILGWU, honors workers' contributions to American soceity every year on the fire's anniversary.
March 20, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference
From the museum: Map of the states that ratified the ERA and a photo of Alice Paul.
This Sunday, March 22, is the anniversary of the U.S. Senate's passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a constitutional amendment that would have ensured equal rights could not be denied on the basis of gender.
Though the amendment was passed by Congress in 1972, it was not ratified by enough states by its July 1982 deadline. Amendments to the Constitution are proposed by a two-thirds majority vote in both houses in Congress and then require ratification, or approval, by three-fourths of the states.
The ERA was written by Alice Paul, a women's rights activist who was instrumental in the 1920 ratification of the 19th amendment, which guaranteed women's right to vote. The ERA was first introduced in Congress in 1923, and has been re-introduced in nearly every session of Congress since then.
Alice Paul's home in Washington D.C. has been the headquarters of the National Women's Party for decades and also the Sewell-Belmont House and Museum, the only museum in the nation's capitol that focuses on women's struggle for full equality.
The museum has a large collection of artifacts from the women's movement, including a searchable online database. It provides tours and is open to the public five days a week.
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