Women Will Get It Done

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is designed to guarantee equal legal rights to all American citizens regardless of sex. The first version of an ERA was written by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman and was introduced in Congress in December 1923.

August 10th was the 50th Anniversary of the House passage of the Equal Rights Amendment—thanks to a discharge petition filed by Martha Griffiths. It did not ultimately pass. Griffiths reintroduced it in 1971. It passed the House in 1971 and the Senate in March 1972. It was then submitted to the states with a required ratification deadline of March 22, 1979. It received 35 of the necessary 38 state ratifications.

Indiana was the 35th state to ratify before Phyliss Schlafly began her effort to stop the ratification on the grounds that it would diminish the status of women. The irony of Indiana being the 35th state is that the Senate version of the ERA was an amendment sponsored by Senator Birch Bayh from Indiana.

The deadline for ratification was then extended to 1982. That extension was disputed but necessary ratifications did not follow so it became irrelevant.

Five state legislatures (Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee, and South Dakota) voted to revoke their ERA ratifications. It remains an unresolved legal question as to whether a state can revoke its ratification.

In 2017 Nevada became the first state to ratify after the expiration of both deadlines. Illinois followed in 2018. In January 2020 Virginia provided the 38th ratification vote. There are obviously a number of legal issues to be resolved.

August 26th was the 100th anniversary of the adoption of the 19th amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote. The amendment was initially introduced in Congress in 1878. After several failed attempts, it passed the House on May 21, 1919. The Senate followed suit in June 4, 1919. On August 18, 1920 Tennessee became the last of the 36 states needed to ratify the amendment. The adoption was certified on August 26, 1920.

All told there have been 27 constitutional amendments in over 230 years, with the first ten adopted very shortly after ratification. In the past 50 years, Congress has passed only two constitutional amendments—the 26th and the ERA—and only one of those was ratified, changing the voting age of eligibility to 18-years-old. The 27th was passed in colonial times but took a few hundred years to get ratified. Not an easy row to hoe.

In 2020, 60 women filed to run for the U.S. Senate and 584 women filed to run for the U.S. House —topping the 2018 number. Within these groups 13 Black women filed to run for the Senate and 117 Black women filed to run for the House. Still, a relatively small number 100 years after gaining the right to vote. [Jay Berman is responsible for the idea of this piece and provided much of the information.]

There has been a sizeable increase in the percentage of female decision-makers at U.S. venture capital firms. Here are the percentages of female decision makers in recent years.

2019 – 12.4% of decision makers at U.S. venture capital firms were women
2018 – 8.93%
2017 – 7%
2016 – 5.7%

In 2020, there were 182 female decision makers among 1,472 total decision makers at 351 firms. 213 of the firms (61%) did not have any female decision-makers. Only 34 firms (9.7%) had two or more. [Axios – Pro Rata 7/21/2020]

The Civil Rights Act of 1957 gave women the right to serve on federal juries.

In 1974, women finally gained the right to get a credit card in their own names with the passage of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974. Effective October 28, 1975. The law made credit card companies issue cards to women without a husband’s signature.

“The way to build back is to put women straight at the center. Because guess what? They’re already at the center. They’re already the ones dealing with kids at home, taking care of the elderly, trying to make sure that there’s food on the table. If we want to build back a better society and also have a quicker recovery, then we have to look at the specific gender pieces that we need to work on in every country around the world.” [Melinda Gates c0-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation NYTimes 3/7/20]

An intern at GenderAvenger (“GA”) this summer was given the assignment to take a look at major TV news websites and analyze the gender breakdown of bylines and the sources journalists use in their stories. The analysis covers a 24-hour period from 9:00 am on July 12 to 9:00 am on July 13, 2020. If you are interested, you should take a look at the full story on GA on the date noted below.

Bylines Source
ABC 16 women 54 women
  30 men 181 men
CNN 52 women 28 women
  49 men 95 men
FOX 21 women 25 women
  73 men 107 men
NBC 16 women 19 women
  17 men 54 women

[Gender Avenger 9/7/20]

The 36th female CEO joined the Fortune 500 when Joanne Crevoiserat took over as Tapestry’s interim chief executive. Sue Nabi will be No. 37 when she becomes CEO of Coty on Sept. 1. And as of yesterday, the Fortune 500 is set to get its 38th women CEO when Linda Rendle takes over The Clorox Company’s corner office on Sept. 14.

Should CEO ranks hold between now and then, 38 will represent a record-high number of female chief executives and it will be the third time in three years that the Fortune 500 has achieved such a record. It did so in 2019 with 33 CEOs and again this past May with 37.

Experts have attributed the slow but steady progress on this front, in part, to company boards becoming more diverse, which is itself a product of institutional investors demanding new blood in boardrooms.

To be sure, 38 female CEOs is still a minuscule share of Fortune 500 leadership overall and there is little racial diversity among the women that make up the too-elite club. But the trend, at least in terms of gender diversity, remains headed in the right direction. [The Broadsheet 8/4/20]