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August 26 officially marks 90 years since American women have been allowed to vote. Most anniversaries are nostalgic, with the news media hauling out newsreel footage from their archives to give viewers a glimpse of a world they barely recognize. But for women’s equality, how different are things than they were in 1920?
Not much, according to a White House Project report issued in 2009. Opening up the ballot box to women has not opened up the board room; only 3 percent of Fortune 500 Companies (14 in all) have female CEOs. It hasn’t opened up judicial chambers either, as only 25 percent of judges are female. Nor has it given women entrepreneurs equal opportunity to succeed; despite opening half of all businesses, women only account for 7 percent of venture-backed capital, according to Businessweek.
As a young woman in her 20s, I was startled by these statistics. I had never felt nor imagined that my gender would hinder my success. However, the more research I read, the more I learned women were lagging when it came to gender equality both inside and outside of the workplace.
Why have we appeared to fall short of the 19th Amendment’s promise, and what can we do about it? These questions are what inspired Vision 2020. Vision 2020 is a national project focused on advancing gender equality by energizing the dialogue about women and leadership. Its first public event takes place on Oct. 21-22, 2010, when a congress of national delegates, representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia, will meet at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia to launch an action agenda to move America toward equality by 2020, the centennial celebration of the 19th Amendment.
The 19th Amendment was not a victory unto itself. Instead, it merely signaled the beginning of the journey. We may have never expected this journey to continue 90 years later, but we should use this anniversary as an occasion to celebrate some of the milestones we have hit. Women have achieved parity (and have even begun to outnumber men) on undergraduate college campuses. Women have distinguished themselves in almost every male dominated profession (though a few notable exceptions still exist in the military), and women’s share of seats in Congress (though still woefully low) continues to grow.
On this Aug. 26, take the time to reflect on these achievements, but also to prepare for the next 10 years of working to achieve gender equality. Support Vision 2020 by visiting Drexel.edu/vision2020, becoming a fan of Vision 2020 on Facebook and following Vision 2020 on Twitter.
About the Author:
Cheryl Soltis is the communications specialist for Vision 2020 and the Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership.Vision 2020 is a nationwide initiative of the Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership of Drexel University College of Medicine.
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