Economic Security and Pay Equity
Wisconsin women of all ages and education experience a substantial and persistent gender wage gap. Women still earn 77 cents to every dollar a man makes. Over a 40-year career, the average woman will lose $431,000 to the gender wage gap. Out of all 50 states, Wisconsin is ranked 27th for pay equality. Though pay inequity has historically been attributed to job choice (as women were not encouraged to pursue higher education and more challenging jobs), research now shows that only about a quarter of the wage gap is due to occupational differences; about 10 percent is due to the fact that more women leave the labor force early to provide care for their children and family.
Sadly, the wage gap increases even more for minority women.
In 2008, The Wisconsin Women’s Network joined with over 200 national, state, and local organizations to call for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have strengthened the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and help address the persistent wage gap between men and women. The bill was passed by the House in 2008, but was never passed by the Senate. In 2009, Barack Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law; the law dictates that the statute of limitations on reporting pay discrimination resets after each paycheck received. While this bill was a huge step forward, many have criticized the Act for failing to get to the root of the issue.
Learn more about pay equity through the following resources:
- For more localized information, check out a recent study by the Center On Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) at UW-Madison entitled ”Mind the Gap: Women, Wages and Pay Gap in Wisconsin.” COWS also has a report that provides data and indicators showing the economic status of women in Wisconsin, called the Wisconsin Women and Economic Opportunity Datasheet.
- Also check out the Wisconsin Women's Council 2013 fact sheet on the gender wage gap in Wisconsin.
- For background on gender pay equity, how it can make a difference in the lives of women and their families, and the Equal Pay Act, see Gender Pay Equity Matters.
- Also see our 2002 report Gender Equity in Pay for WI Women Public Employees.
Education Equity and Title IX
Title IX was passed by the United States Congress in 1972 as part of the Education Amendments. It states that "no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance." Title IX is most widely known for its impact on high school and collegiate women's sports.
Be sure to check out the following resources on equality in education and Title IX:
- The National Center for Education Statistics: Fast Facts on Title IX
- For more information on women's athletics, check out the Women's Sports Foundation, founded by Billie Jean King.
- For additional background on Title IX see:
The number of women in higher education has been increasing steadily since the 1970's. Public, private, and non-for-profit institutions all have higher female enrollment than male. Still, inequalities in education remain in the 2010's. Only 23% of full professors in the US are female. There is still a dearth of females in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics); this is especially true for minority women. For more information on these inequalities, check out the Office of Science and Technology Policy and this National Science Foundation 2013 report on Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science & Engineering.
Equal Rights Amendment
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was an amendment to the Constitution first proposed in 1923. The amendment states:
- Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
- Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
- Section 3. This amendment shall go into effect two years after the date of ratification.
The ERA finally passed both houses of Congress in 1972 and went to all state legislatures for ratification. The amendment failed to receive the minimum number of ratifications and was never adopted into law. Wisconsin ratified the amendment in 1972. By 2008, only 35 of the necessary 38 states had ratified the amendment. Many feminist organizations continue to push for its passage and adoption.
For local historical information, see Wisconsin’s Struggle for the Equal Rights Amendment.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Persons Rights
LGBT rights are a feminist issue for many reasons. Feminists seek equal rights for women, and that means all women. A woman's right to independence and self-determination includes a right to define and express her own sexuality, on her own terms.
In 1982, Wisconsin became the first state to ban sexual orientation-based discrimination in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations (including adoption rights). Same-sex marriages, civil unions, and other statuses that are considered "substantially similar" to marriage are banned by 2006 amendment to the state constitution. Wisconsin does allow domestic partnership for same-sex couples, but this provides very limited rights--in fact, it provides only 43 of the more than 200 benefits that heterosexual couples are allowed. On February 13, 2014, State Senator Tim Carpenter and State Representative JoCasta Zamarripa, openly gay and bisexual legislators, circulated legislation to repeal the 2006 ban. In order to repeal the constitutional amendment, the legislation would have to be passed by the Wisconsin legislature in two consecutive sessions and then brought to the public for a vote in a statewide referendum.
In 2012, Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay US Senator.
Concerning trans* rights, Wisconsin does allow a person who has completed sex-reassignment surgery to amend his/her/their birth certificate after documentation of the surgery is provided. In 2011, the Supreme Court overturned a Wisconsin statute that denied hormone therapy to prisoners undergoing sexual reassignment, deeming it unconstitutional. Federally, anti-transgender discrimination in healthcare insurance is banned; this is the only federal protection specifically for trans* people.
For information on advancing and protecting LGBT civil rights in Wisconsin:
- Check out WWN member OutReach.
- Also see our LGBT Non-Fiction Bibliography and LGBT Teen Internet Resources. Check back soon for an updated list!