August 26 is Women's Equity Day
Monday, August 26 is Women's Equality Day, commemorating the passage of the 19th Amendment. A century ago, women in this country were not allowed to vote, yet many Americans take that right for granted today. One out of three eligible women fails to exercise her right (CAWP, 2019).
Although women make up more than half of the U.S. population, they disproportionally represented at the decision-making tables in business and government. Priorities and resources are set and allocated at these are places. These decisions affect all of our lives. In 2019, women hold 23.7% of U.S. Congressional seats and 27.6% of statewide elective executive offices. Even in Rhode Island, where we have a record 37% of women in our state legislature, we still have a way to go before achieving equity in office.
As the Executive Director of the Women's Fund of Rhode Island (WFRI) and the Rhode Island delegate to Vision 2020 (a national women's equity coalition), I speak about the need for civic engagement every day. Civic engagement means taking an active role in your community, and it is a critical component of a healthy democracy. The work of government leaders directly impacts issues like pay equity, affordable family leave, and family care, and gender discrimination. The beauty of living in a democracy is that each of us has the power to shape communities using our voices, our votes, and our actions.
To that end, we recently trained 55 women to run for office using a non-partisan training curriculum. We are currently interviewing candidates for our Women's Policy Institute this fall, which will train women to advocate for the change they would like to see in our community. On Monday, in collaboration with Vision 2020, the League of Women Voters, RI NOW and many other women's groups, we will be training volunteers to register voters for the next election. Our goal is to increase the number of women voters and women elected into office in 2020.
We mark the 99th anniversary of women's suffrage in the U.S. on Monday (August 26). We must recognize that we have not yet achieved our goal of gender equity in this country. At 4:00 pm on the steps of the Rhode Island State House, we will be raising a "Toast to Tenacity." Here we celebrate where we have come from while acknowledging how much further we need to go to attain that goal. The program will include remarks from Governor Gina Raimondo, Lt. Governor Dan McKee and Deputy Secretary of State Melissa Husband. This fun, inclusive event is meant to kick off a year-long campaign to increase women's civic engagement in Rhode Island. We invite the community to join us at the event on the State House steps, by sharing a "virtual toast" from their desktop on social media using @womensfundri #toasttotenacity. You may also take the 2020 Voters Pledge for Equity here.
About the author and Women's Fund of Rhode Island
Kelly Nevins has been the Executive Director of the Women's Fund of Rhode Island since 2016 and a leader in the Rhode Island nonprofit sector since 1990. Information about her and the work of Women's Fund of Rhode Island is at www.wfri.org.