August 26th is Women’s Equality Day. This day was first celebrated in1973 when then New York Congresswoman, Bella Abzug, introduced the resolution in congress to commemorate the passing of the19th amendment (Susan B. Anthony amendment) when women in the United States first gained the right to vote on August 26th, 1920.
Today, we honor all those who stand for equality on behalf of women. From 1955 when Rosa Parks, a seamstress, refused to give up her seat to a white man in the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama toMaya Lin who at age twenty-one while a senior at Yale University won a contest to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (most monuments had been designed by men) on the National Mall – American women have traveled far on the road to equality yet still have far to go.
One critical area that is still unequal is funding for medical research.It wasn’t until June 10th, 1993, when Congress passed the NIH Revitalization Act, that the inclusion of women was required in clinical research trials. Research on women’s health was not funded by the NIH prior.
Fast forward 30 years and research funding has not even begun to equalize. Of the nearly $42 billion the National Institutes of Health (NIH) spends on medical research each year,only approximately$5 billion of that funding is directed specifically at women's health. Change is needed. With our recent launch of vaginalbiomescience.com, we are moving to ensure research for women’s health accelerates. We arepioneering a new understanding of the role of the biome as a determinant of vaginal and overall health for women.
Women deserve equality in all areas. Consider the workplace. According to Gender Equality Funds, men are promoted at 30% higher rates than women in their early career years. Women are paid 79 cents on the dollar of their male colleagues, and it’s worse for women of color. Fifty percent of women in the STEM (science technology, engineering and math) fields eventually leave their jobs due to hostile work environments. There is real progress to be made to reach gender equality in the workplace.
With the 50 year precedent of a woman’s right to an abortion, Roe vs. Wade, overturned recently, a new threat to the health and well being of women exists, and for largely those who can least afford the risks. The right to safe abortions is, above all, a right to safe, effective health care, a fundamental human right. As we consider what can be done for women’s equality in our nation, women’s reproductive health is top of mind.
As we celebrate the achievements of women everywhere and consider the unique daily struggles women face, let’s all look for ways to improve equality for women in our nation.Here are some ideas to consider:
- Donate your time or resources to a local women’s shelter.
- Consider mentoring a young person. With an epidemic of anxiety and depression in our youth, there’s always an immediate need.
- If you are not already registered to vote, do so today. Consider volunteering to get out the vote at election time.
- Gather your friends and ask, what can we do locally to improve our community for all women. There’s power in numbers.