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Women and Public Policy

Public policy needs for women are drastically different than for men. Women have had to fight with persistence for equality and equity Giving everyone what they need to be successful (Equality is treating everyone the same). From reproductive rights to the Family Leave Act to the Women’s Economic Security Act, legislative initiatives often react to existing problems rather than addressing issues before they can become problems.

Public policy is lagging on addressing critical issues that have a direct impact on the lives of women and their families, such as sexual and domestic violence as well as poverty.

I am desperate for change now, not in eight years or 12 years, but right now. We don’t have time to wait. We need big change — not just the shifting of power among insiders. We need to change the game, because the game is broken. When I think about the country I want to give my children, it’s not the world we have now."
Michelle Obama

Setting the Stage

Although the rights of women in most parts of the world have improved in some significant ways throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries, nowhere in the world have women achieved full social, economic, political and legal equity Giving everyone what they need to be successful. (Equality is treating everyone the same) with men.

For example, in the United States women on average still make only 79 cents for every dollar made by white men in comparable positions. African American women earn only 63 cents and Latina women only 54 cents for each dollar earned by white males. These numbers have improved very little in over a decade.

This inequity persists despite the fact that women’s educational achievements surpass those of men, with more women than men graduating high school and college and earning graduate degrees.

Minnesota Efforts toward Equity

In 2014, the Minnesota Legislature passed the Women’s Economic Security Act, aiming to reduce the gender pay gap Women in the U.S. make significantly less than men in almost every profession even when they are doing the same job and create grants for nontraditional job training for women.

This is one example of the policy pushed through for (and usually by) women in recent years. With more representation, the issues that affect women more are more likely to end up in policy.

According to the Minnesota Historical Society’s historical and cultural grants program, only six pieces of “significant legislation” specifically built to help women passed between the passage of suffrage and 1967. For contrast, there have been almost three times that many acts specifically aimed toward women passed into law just since 1995 — a time period with much more representation for women.