This Week in Women: Equal Pay Day & Chicago's Historic Mayoral Election
From the fight to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act to campaigning for Equal Pay to the election of Chicago’s first African American woman mayor, it has been a huge week for policy. Women are leading the charge for a more equally paid, safer world and we’re here for it.
Let’s get into the headlines with This Week in Women!
Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act
As the Violence Against Women Act moves to the Senate this week, we’re revisiting the historic importance of the measure and the subsequent battle against the NRA that is unfolding. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was signed into law by President Clinton in 1994 with bipartisan support — providing funding for investigation and prosecution of violent crimes, including domestic abuse and sexual violence. The bill has been reauthorized in 2000, 2005 and 2013; it is currently expired and awaiting reauthorization after the government shutdown and short term spending bill expired early this year.
On Thursday the VAWA bill, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan), passed its first hurdle in Congress and must now wait on a senate vote. The NRA launched a major campaign to halt the bill’s progress, arguing that the “boyfriend loophole” – a provision for law enforcement officials to be able to take guns away from or stop purchases by people that have been convicted of abusing a former or current partner – is “too broad and ripe for abuse.”
Since the passage of VAWA, annual rates of sexual violence have declined dramatically by 58 percent from 1994 to 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice reported. Other benefits include a significant reduction in intimate partner violence, increased reporting and police investigations into rape cases, increased medical services, and more access to victim advocacy and violence prevention programs.
“We’re not trying to take away people’s due process. If someone’s not allowed to have a gun, we are simply closing a loophole,” said Dingell. “Today we all came together because we are standing up for women, and men, and children across this country.”
Gender Pay Gap Day Highlights Women’s Contributions and Persistent Inequalities
April 2 was Equal Pay Day, an annual marker for addressing the progress and advancements of women, as well as the persisting inequalities in compensation between women and men. No one is surprised to learn that women earn roughly 80 percent of men’s salaries, often enduring “motherhood penalties” and a widening pay gap as they get older (as reported by the American Association of University Women (AAUW)). The ACLU also took the Equal Pay Day discussion one step further with this handy infographic that shows the Wage Gap with a further breakdown of disparities based on race and ethnicity.
So what’s being done and can be done about these inequalities? Well it turns out that women are negotiating more and are getting comparable (if not higher) education merits. Therefore, we must turn accountability conversations on to companies. President Obama provided some framework for progress by signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009 and in rolling out the Equal Pay Pledge in 2016 to encourage companies to action to advance equal pay. Other proven strategies for improvement that companies are embracing across the globe is subsidized childcare, enforced paternity leave, mentoring programs, and salary transparency.
“People of all ages, across all demographics, are well aware that women still face barriers and biases in the workplace,” said Kim Churches, chief executive officer of AAUW in an interview with Morningstar, a global investment research company. “Most Americans find this unacceptable, and that’s why there is so much momentum toward policies and practices to close the gender pay gap. Given the national dialogue on equity issues in the workplace, I’m confident that we’re seeing a significant culture shift and that before too long, Equal Pay Day will be history.”
Chicago’s Historic Election and the City’s First African American Woman Mayor
On Tuesday, Chicago elected Lori Lightfoot, its first African American woman and openly gay mayor. The new 56-year-old mayor is a former assistant US attorney, has held various leadership positions with the Chicago Police Board and Chicago Police Accountability Task Force, and is a self-described “out and proud black lesbian.” The Windy City is on the precipice of change as Lightfoot overtakes mayoral duties on May 20, with a special focus on stabilizing the city by addressing fiscal challenges, efforts to reduce violent crimes, and putting police force accountability and reform initiatives into action.
“Out there tonight a lot of little girls and boys are watching. They’re watching us, and they’re seeing the beginning of something, well, a little bit different,” said Lightfoot in her acceptance speech. “They’re seeing a city reborn. A city where it doesn’t matter what color you are. Where it doesn’t matter who you love, just as long as you love with all your heart.”
Featured image via USA Today
Stay tuned to Milk for more of This Week in Women and check out our previous installments here.