Women’s History Month 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX, which many see as the one of most important pieces of legislation in regards to women’s rights of the last century. Congress passed the law in June of 1972 and Rep. Patsy Mink, the first Asian American woman to serve in Congress, was the bill’s lead author and sponsor. This law targeted all education programs and activities receiving federal funding and mandated that they must protect students and employees from sex-based discrimination. Following the passage of Title IX, numerous inequitable gender practices that were previously tolerated or ignored were banned. Despite repeated attempts to weaken the law since its passage, Title IX still remains one of the strongest deterrents of institutional discrimination practices against women.
At the same time, there is still plenty of work to do. As we celebrate Women’s History Month 2022, it’s important that we don’t just recognize and honor these historic moments, but extract lessons from and build on them.
This national celebration originated in 1981. At the time, it was recognized as “Women’s History Week.” Following years and years of Congressional resolutions, the National Women’s History Project petitioned to expand the observation to an entire month in 1987. In March of that year, Congress passed a resolution officially recognizing Women’s History Month. Since 1995, US presidents have participated in the tradition of making annual proclamations recognizing the celebration. Throughout the country, Women’s History Month is a time for celebration, reflection and action.
One example of this is the recent, historic settlement between the US Women’s Soccer Team and the US Soccer Federation. The team already had a special place in the history books after winning the World Cup. However, they still chose to stand up for an even bigger fight to achieve pay equity with their male counterparts. After all, the Women’s national team has won four World Cups since 1985 while the men haven’t made it as far as the semi-finals since 1930. By reaching a $24 million settlement, the women’s national team struck a huge blow and made the US Soccer Federation acknowledge their practice of pay inequity. How the institution moves forward remains to be seen, but the example this sets cannot be downplayed. Furthermore, it’s necessary considering, once again, how much more work there still is to do.
One of the most prominent priorities is achieving pay equity across the board. Despite progress in a variety of areas, the average woman in the workforce still makes only 76 cents on the dollar compared to the average man in the workforce. In fact, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many economists predict this gap will only grow throughout the next decade. If that were not enough, women’s reproductive rights are under attack all throughout the country, with legislators passing or attempting to pass laws banning abortion in states like Texas and Nebraska. Even the very act of telling the history of women’s rights wins and sex discrimination is under attack under the same umbrella demonizing critical race theory and trans awareness.
In the face of this opposition, it is incumbent on us to study the wins and organize to push society forward in earnest. Women’s History Month 2022 at the University of Oregon is just one opportunity to participate in this work, but to be clear, this work is a lifetime practice.
This year’s programming includes a variety of activities addressing everything from activism to labor rights to investing. Special guests include Alicia Garcia, co-founder of Black Lives Matter and recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, who will be delivering a keynote as part of the Lyllye B. Parker BIWOC Speaker Series; Sarita Gupta, vice president of the Ford Foundation and 2021-22 Wayne Morse Chair; and Professor Maria Chaderina of the Lundquist College of Business.
This wide swath of topics and distinguished guests represents a great opportunity to celebrate achievements, explore lessons from history and organize actions to create a better future. We hope you can join us and the entire UO community in honoring Women’s History Month 2022!