The future is female, thanks to these moments in the past
We probably think of women’s history in terms of several major milestones, but the truth is that these milestones have all been hard-won by years of back-breaking, often unrecognised labour by scores of activists and ordinary women. While these major moments, from the Australia to India to Saudi Arabia and beyond, are incredible and should be celebrated, they’re all steps along the path to equality, and we have a long way to go.
1895: South Australia gives women the right to vote
This Australian state was an early adopter in allowing women to cast their ballots in national elections. The South Australian Parliament passed a constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote in December of 1894, which meant women could vote in the following year’s elections. The battle was hard-won. Women had reportedly fought for a decade to make this historical event happen. Although New Zealand was the first self-governing country in the world to allow all women to vote in parliamentary elections (in 1893), women were not allowed to stand for election there until 1919. As the South Australian amendment allowed women to stand for election from 1895, South Australia became the first electorate in the world to grant equal political rights to men and women.
1963: Equal Pay Act passed in the United States
Former President John F. Kennedy backed amending the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act in the US so that women could be paid the same wages as men performing the same job. This act aimed to put a stop to sex-based wage discrimination, although we haven’t seen that happen yet. US women on average are paid $0.82 cents to every $1 earned by white, non-Hispanic men (the largest demographic), and women of colour earn even less: on average, Latina women earn $0.55 and Black women earn $0.63 to every $1 earned by a white, non-Hispanic man. Globally, women earn on average just 68% of what men are paid for the same work, and just 40% on average in countries with the least gender parity, according to the World Economic Forum notes. Even when earners in similar demographics, such as ethnicity and level of education are compared, the gender wage gap persists, consistently showing that women earn less money than men, retire with less money than men, and have more student debt than men (it’s a lot harder to pay off your loans when you’re earning less money!) Clearly, there is a lot of work left to do.