On August 26th, we celebrate Women’s Equality Day—a day commemorating the passage of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote in 1920. Yet celebrating this important moment in our history should also give us pause: Black women were not guaranteed this right until the Voting Rights Act passed in 1965. The history of voting rights in this country is marked by racial and gender inequality, and we are still fighting the legacy of this discrimination in the voting booth and beyond. Women’s Equality Day is therefore not just a day for celebrating, but a day for taking stock of progress and for looking toward the work that remains. And with Labor Day around the corner, it’s critical to examine the role of our workplaces in perpetuating gender inequality.
One major barrier to true gender equality remains our nation’s lack of supportive work-family laws and resulting care crisis, which has been deeply exacerbated by the pandemic. We saw record numbers of women forced to leave the workforce during the pandemic, with women of color facing particularly harsh economic consequences. And as we found in our March 2021 report, “Our Crisis of Care,” NYC women, in particular, face impossible positions due to care needs, forcing them to cut back on their hours or leave the workplace altogether at much higher rates than men—a pattern that is in line with national trends.
Some caregivers have gotten some relief in the form of stimulus checks and child care tax credits. But as COVID-19 cases are once again surging across the country with the rise of the Delta variant, we must ensure women shouldering caregiving responsibilities and working in frontline jobs—particularly Black women and other women of color—are not again left carrying the brunt of the crisis.
So this Women’s Equality Day and Labor Day, we’re calling for permanent policies that would help break down the sexism and racism embedded in our systems of work and care. Policies like paid sick and family leave, affordable childcare, and accommodations for pregnant and breastfeeding workers all have critical roles to play in finally securing equality for all women, by ensuring women can stay healthy and attached to the workforce while also doing the essential work of providing care for their loved ones.