By Monica Treviño-Ortega
This has been a remarkable year for women in civic engagement and governmental leadership. In November history will be made, regardless of the outcome of the midterm elections, simply because more women are running for positions of government than ever before. The 2018 midterms saw the most women in the history of our country who filed and won primary elections in the house and senate contests. The number of women who won primaries in the governor’s office was also the highest recorded. While the victories of women in 2018 are certainly worth celebrating as a reminder of how far we’ve come in terms of representation and the female experience, there is still a journey ahead to achieve the progress of true equality.
Looking back at American history, it was only in 1919 that the 19th amendment was passed by Congress and later ratified in 1920. Many citizens in our country don’t realize that a woman’s right to vote is actually an amendment to the constitution, not a law. This means it can be repealed. The 19th amendment was originally introduced to Congress 41 years prior to ratification, which is a reminder of why we as women must continue to lead, to advocate for each other, and to be involved in our communities.
This Month’s Milestones, Throughout Women’s History:
- October 23, 1910 Blanche Stuart Scott is the first American woman pilot to make a public flight
- October 15, 1948 Dr. Frances L. Willoughby is the first woman doctor in the regular U.S. Navy
- October 28, 1958 Mary Roebling is the first woman director of a stock exchange (American Stock Exchange)
- October 4, 1976 Barbara Walters becomes the first woman co-anchor of the evening news (at ABC)
- October 10, 1983 Dr. Barbara McClintock receives the Nobel Prize for Medicine for her discovery in genetics about mobile genetic elements
- October 11, 1984 Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan is the first U.S. woman astronaut to walk in space during Challenger flight
- October 25, 1988 The Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988 was signed into law
We don’t have to run for office, lobby at city hall, or lead a corporate riot in order to contribute to the future of women’s rights. Getting involved in your community, leading through action and sharing your voice to represent others is truly is as simple as these three steps:
Learn about the candidates and issues coming up in the November elections. Make it a point to be well-informed and determine your own opinions. The League of Women Voters is a great resource that does all the legwork through their local chapters (chances are there is one near you). Visit them at https://www.lwv.org/
When you know who and what you are voting for, all you have to do is get yourself to the polls. You can find out when and where to vote in your area here https://www.usa.gov/election-office
If you feel compelled to do more, there are so many ways to lead in your own communities and make your voices heard. Join your local chapter of the Junior League, contact your local chamber of commerce and ask to serve on a committee pertaining to your passions, sign up as a “citizen to be heard” at your next city hall session, or write to your elected officials (find out who represents you https://fyi.capitol.texas.gov/Zip.aspx).
My great-grandmother is still living today at the age of 108 and was ten years old when women were granted the privilege of voting. Similarly, she lived through a time when women could not start a business or obtain a business loan without the signature of a male. It might seem mind-boggling, but it was only 30 years ago this month that the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988 was signed into law. Can you imagine living without some of your favorite brands and women-owned businesses? Had this law not passed, Kendra Scott, Orangetheory Fitness, BaubleBar, S’well, Glossier, Credit Karma, 23andMe, Friedababy, Honest, and so many other companies we love might not be in existence today.
Equal pay is another issue that deserves serious attention when it comes to gender parity. While there has been progress towards closing the gender pay gap, unfortunately far too many of us still are working to overcome wage disparities at the office. Perhaps we could stand to learn from countries like Iceland, whose leadership just imposed a law this summer requiring all firms, private and public, to prove that employees are paid equally, irrespective of gender. In fact, the only discrepancies allowed under this law exist on the basis of education, output, and skills. Our economy is very different from Iceland’s, but there is no reason why American employers couldn’t be held to the same standards.
The defense of and the continued progress toward women’s rights is a generational responsibility. I often wonder how my great-grandmother felt when she was granted the right to vote. I’m not sure what my mother’s awareness was when the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988 was signed, but today I do know my stance on equal pay and gender equality, and I will certainly enlighten my two young daughters about these issues when they are of age. I have made civic engagement and advocacy my life’s work to build the future for my daughters that I wish to see in our world, and ensure their opportunities to positively impact our country are limitless…because all men –and women— are created equal.
Alice + Olivia by Stacey Bendet, for Forbes Magazine. Image Source.
Monica Treviño-Ortega is a women’s rights advocate, community leader, purveyor of urban development, wife, and mother to two beautiful daughters. Treviño-Ortega spent most of her early corporate career advancing women and minorities in the workplace. She currently works for a government agency where she manages public & government relations and community outreach for projects in San Antonio that deliver billions of dollars in economic impact across the city. She has served as the Vice Chair of Diversity & Inclusion for the Junior League of San Antonio and as Secretary Commissioner for San Antonio’s first and only Downtown Citizen’s Advisory Commission. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Connect with Monica on LinkedIn and Instagram @monica.trevino.ortega.