Women’s Equality: A Work in Progress

Rosie the Riveter

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences hosted its second annual Women’s Equality Day Luncheon in the Coastal Ballroom of Talley Student Union on Monday, August 28, 2017.

Since 1971, August 26th has been designated as Women’s Equality Day in the U.S. The day commemorates the certification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that granted women the right to vote in 1920. The day also honors the Women’s Suffrage Movement. At NC State, the commemoration aims to call attention to women’s continuing efforts to obtain full equality.

At this year’s luncheon, LaTosha Bradley and Dr. Alex Graves of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences gave the welcome and opening remarks. Melissa Green, director of the Center for Student Leadership, Ethics and Public Service, introduced this year’s keynote speaker, Renee Wells, director of the NC State GLBT Center.

Historically, Women’s Equality Day has focused on the gains of women in the U.S. since women’s suffrage took effect. However, these celebrated privileges have been most often enjoyed by a select few, namely, wealthy white women.

In her remarks, Wells skillfully traced the history and evolution of this legislation and the lived experiences of other groups of women who have always existed but have never received the same acknowledgment, rights or privileges. For example, Wells pointed out that the oft-cited statistic that women earn 77 cents for every dollar that men earn applies only to white women. The amount decreases for black women, Latinx women and other groups of women.

Most pointedly, while white women fight for earning power and the ability to match the privileges of white men, other groups of women (and other individuals) struggle to overcome obstacles related to survival and basic human rights. For example, trans women experience very high rates of discrimination, harassment and violence.

For anyone questioning why we should all fight for the rights of the most marginalized groups of women, Wells argued that the gains experienced by the most disadvantaged benefit everyone. To uplift those who need it most will empower all of us.

Wells’ powerfully-delivered remarks received a standing ovation.