Just as it sounds, women’s empowerment is the process of ensuring that women and girls have the power they need to control their lives, to make strong choices, to influence their own directions personally and professionally, to have a positive sense of self-worth, and to have access to the resources they need and the opportunities they want. “Feminism” may seem like a dated word, but the idea is anything but antiquated. In today’s society, feminism encompasses equal rights and opportunities not just for women but for all genders. While women and girls of the past may have stepped aside for men and boys to achieve their goals, today’s lady demands a level playing field that affords opportunities to everyone without discrimination.

Issues Women Face

Although significant strides have occurred toward women’s equality, some challenges continue to exist. The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963 as a means of prohibiting wage discrimination between the genders. Even so, women generally earn less than men in comparable jobs, and men are more likely than women to enter employment sectors such as engineering and science. Gender-based violence is another issue that affects women disproportionately.

Women’s Suffrage Movement

Women fought to attain the right to vote for about 100 years before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was finally ratified on Aug. 26, 1920. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton devoted their lives to working for equal rights for all people, regardless of race or gender. These two women founded the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869; it was considered a radical institution at the time. In 1872, Susan B. Anthony actually voted in the presidential election, casting a ballot for Ulysses S. Grant, but she was arrested and tried for this crime. Neither Stanton nor Anthony lived to see women finally attain the right to vote.

Economic Empowerment

Economic empowerment is an important facet of ensuring gender equality. Women are responsible for huge contributions to the economy. Women are business owners, entrepreneurs, and employees, and they also perform significant unpaid work in the home. At the same time, women are also impacted by low-wage jobs, insecure employment, exploitation, and unfair social policies. Women’s empowerment is the push to ensure gender equality so that women can have opportunities for good jobs, which can enable them to accumulate assets and exert influence.

Political Empowerment

Political empowerment is all about ensuring that women have a voice in politics. Women’s suffrage was gained 100 years ago, and women have also become active as public officeholders at the local, state, and federal levels. However, women hold fewer public office positions compared to men. Historically, women have been excluded from political candidacy due to legal, social, and financial barriers. Women also face different political challenges compared to men: A man might be perceived as strong and courageous as a politician, while a woman behaving the same way might be unfairly perceived as bossy or power-hungry. Having women in leadership roles tends to encourage others to follow suit, which is helpful for showing girls and young women what options are available to them.

Important Women

Many women have become influential leaders in the women’s empowerment movement. For example, Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg both became Supreme Court justices. Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice both served as U.S. secretaries of State. Mary Barra became the chairperson and CEO of General Motors, and Melinda Gates has worked tirelessly as a philanthropist. These women and others like them have become leaders in society, and young girls can look up to them and follow their examples as they strive to make strong choices and find fulfilling opportunities.