As part of our Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Initiative, members of ERPi write monthly blog posts exploring topics on diversity, inclusion, awareness, and education as it relates to our company, society, and the things that impact us personally. This month’s post reflects on Women’s Equality Month, which takes place in August.
Currently, across our Nation, there are demonstrations calling for social justice and reform through the Black Lives Matter movement. From late May to early July 2020, it was estimated that between 15 and 26 million people demonstrated in response to the deaths of George Floyd and others. Some people ask, why protest? What is the value? Yes, protests do convey a message to our congressional representatives, but, according to a study by Harvard University and Stockholm University economists, the greatest value of protesting is that participants become more politically activated. Further, their findings suggest that larger protests can bring about more significant changes in policy through effects on voting, political contributions, ideology, and future support for the identified issue.
Protests that foster change are those that become a national conversation and clearly frame the issue. Based on surveys, protesters supporting the Black Lives Matter movement are bringing about change. In June 2020, two-thirds of Americans supported the Black Lives Matter movement, up from 40 percent in 2016. Further, 76 percent of Americans (and 71 percent of white people) thought racism was a “big problem,” a 26 percent increase since 2015.
This activism is clearly making a difference in opinion and its impact likely seen at the polls in the near and distant future. As we approach August, women’s equality month, it is hard not to notice that Black Lives Matter protests are gender neutral; and with that we have clearly come a long way. Black women have combated being both black and female from an equality perspective. Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” to describe how gender, race, and other demographics intersect or multiply to create added obstacles and further disparity. The renewed activism can add awareness of marginalized demographics that form intersectionality for an improved equality outcome.
Given August is Women’s Equality Month, let us also look at the effect of demonstrations for women’s rights.
- Women’s Suffrage Parade in 1913: The suffragettes of the early 20th century used marches to win the right to vote. The 1913 Women’s Suffrage Parade in Washington D.C. was the first civil rights demonstration in the U.S. capital and initiated a platform used by activists to this day. The 1913 march, held the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, was attended by more than 5,000 women and generated the publicity needed to make the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S. successful.
- Women’s Strike for Equality in 1970: In August 1970, 50,000 women marched down Fifth Avenue in New York City during the Women’s Strike for Equality. The march, and sister marches across the country, confirmed women’s commitment to equality. Within 2 years, Title IX passed, forbidding discrimination based on gender in educational programs that received federal financial assistance.
- Women’s March in 2017: The largest global women’s rights protest in history occurred in January 2017. An estimated 3 to 5 million American women participated in cities across the country, joined by at least 261 sister marches in countries around the world. The Women’s March in 2017 sparked the viral #MeToo movement, which has reached at least 85 countries, and resulted in historical numbers of women running for office across the world.
Demonstrations do send a message to those in power, facilitating positive policy change. More importantly, they forever affect those who participate, changing lives and experiences, and fostering lifelong activism.
Lisanne Bunce Ozanian, Director
Dana Hanton, Director