As the centennial of the 19th Amendment approaches in 2020, Drexel University’s Vision 2020 is gearing up for a year-long celebration to commemorate women’s right to vote.
Vision 2020 launched in 2010 with the goal of accelerating the pace of progress for women. It is now a national coalition of nonprofit organizations and individuals working together for gender equality.
Founder and President Lynn Yeakel said a national conversation about women’s leadership and gender equality was lacking when the project began.
Vision 2020 started by exploring the barriers between women and leadership positions and focused on the target areas of business and government “where we really needed 50-50 shared leadership,” Yeakel said.
“We need our perspectives represented,” she said. “Companies do better when they have more diversity on their boards, government is less polarized and women tend to work more across party lines.”
Centennial celebration events will largely be centered in Philly, but many will also take place nationally. Festivities will include:
- March 3 — An interactive exhibit designed to teach the public, especially youth, about the history of the women’s suffrage movement, as well as about the value of gender equality and shared leadership (location TBA)
- April 4 to 5 — A road rally of 100 women driving from Seneca Falls, New York to Philadelphia to mark the journey of the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention
- Aug. 26 — On the date the 19th Amendment went into effect, there will be a National Toast of Tenacity at Independence Mall to celebrate the suffragettes; toasts will be done with grape juice as Prohibition was in effect in 1920
- Sept. 17 — A national congress will be held in Philly to reflect on the progress that’s been made and the progress that still remains
- Nov. 3 — A push to educate women voters about the candidates and platforms and then get them to the polls
A full list of events can be found here.
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“Our overall themes are honoring the past, enriching the present and shaping the future,” Yeakel said. “We have the modest goal of having 100 percent of eligible women voting. The importance of women voting, knowing who’s running and actually casting their vote is crucial.”
The celebration will not only honor the 19th Amendment, but will also explore the work that still needs to be done to achieve gender equality for all women.
(Relevant: While the 19th Amendment secured white women’s free right to vote, banning voting discrimination based on race did not go into effect until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Black people faced voter disenfranchisement tactics such as extra taxes and barriers to registering.)
Highly publicized movements such as #metoo and #timesup have been “great evidence of women standing up and speaking up for themselves and each other,” Yeakel said. “The pace is picking up now for sure.”
“Women are realizing the importance of engaging and working together,” she added. “This massive mobilization of women stepping up and saying, ‘I’m going to take responsibility and run for the school board or City Council or Congress, and take action and do my part.'”
Yeakel ran for Senate in 1992, in the midst of Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation hearings, where Anita Hill testified against him for sexual harassment. Yeakel said at the time, there was not the same public conversation about issues like harassment as there is today.
Since 1992, the biggest changes Yeakel has seen is more women in office and a shift in public attitudes about women in leadership.
When Yeakel ran for office, there were only two women serving in the senate. Five women were elected to Senate that year, one of whom was Carol Moseley Braun, the first Black female senator. There are currently 22 women in the Senate.
Yeakel said she believes making progress in education will ultimately contribute to gender equality, and that efforts such as providing quality education and opportunity regardless of socioeconomic status and emphasizing STEM education for girls can help in closing gaps between gender, ethnicity and income level.
More cultural change within families can also make a difference in the ability to achieve shared leadership, including sharing childcare and other responsibilities in the home, Yeakel said.
“Factoring in family responsibilities, workplaces have to change to recognize that you can’t penalize taking time off to have children or take care of a parent,” she said. “That should be rewarded and compensated.”-30-
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