Forty years ago this month, then President Ford established the National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year, which had been designated as 1975 by the United Nations. The President's actions kicked off a chain of events, now largely forgotten, that triggered some of the most dramatic changes to women's progress in American history. That year, the Women's Commission was established, holding caucuses in all 50 states to engage women in debate and action around the issues that mattered most to them. Tens of thousands of women attended these meetings from across the country and the energy and momentum they generated would change the paradigm for generations of American women that followed. The powerful combination of civic action, community, collaboration, bi-partisanship and advocacy created change at every level of American society. For American women from all parties, classes and walks of life, 1975 was a breakthrough year.
Forty years later, we are again seeing historic energy, engagement and passion from American women who are better educated and more ambitious than ever, increasingly out earning men as primary breadwinners and leading in unprecedented ways. Women are running major corporations, starting businesses and serving in Congress in greater numbers than ever before. Strong, powerful role models - such as Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who in November became the youngest woman ever to be elected to Congress at age 30 -- abound. And yet for all the leaning in and working hard, women have also realized they are far from the promise of full and equal voice and opportunity. The World Economic Forum ranks the U.S. 20th globally for gender equality -- behind Nicaragua, Burundi, and South Africa. 62% of minimum wage workers in the US are female. 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence. And while women have turned every election since the 1980's, their voices are not being heard in a wide range of issues from the office to the state house to Capital Hill.
On nearly every measure of civic engagement beyond voting, women are hugely behind. We are less likely to read about politics, to write to our representatives, to make political contributions, to speak up at town hall meetings, or to believe we understand the issues. And while women in Congress have time and again shown their willingness to collaborate and put aside partisan politics to focus on issues that matter, we are still less likely to run (or believe we'd ever be qualified to run) for office.
Looking back at where we've been and forward to where we must go, we decided to do something. This month, in honor of that important anniversary, we are launching the All In Together Campaign to spark a national conversation about the role of women in political and civic life. We are bringing people together from both parties, from the private, public, non-profit and academic sectors to help shape a groundbreaking agenda of leadership and civic action and to close the stubborn and stagnant gender gaps that continue to limit women's voices in our national agenda.
Today, many women understand we have unprecedented freedoms and opportunity. We have the ability to choose our careers and determine our destinies in ways our mothers could hardly have imagined. And yet, we are far from achieving full equality and empowerment as envisioned by women in 1975. To ensure our voice is as powerful as our numbers and our influence is as strong as our interests, we must take all remaining boundaries off our leadership to drive real change on all the issues that matter to us. We do not have to agree on everything but we must speak up and participate in shaping the future of our nation -- for our communities, for our families, and for ourselves. And we must do it together.
Lauren Leader-Chivée @laurenchivee and Courtney Emerson @courtneyemerson