During this time of crisis, it is important to recognize the many brave women who have sacrificed and risked their lives to help the sick during this pandemic, including the countless doctors, nurses, medical staff, and first responders. We are equally grateful to those women who continue to work at essential businesses, including, but not limited to, grocery store works, janitors, and transportation workers. These women have stepped up for the good of society.
Of course, women have a long history of sacrifice in times of crisis and the struggle to better society. Countless of women participated in the struggle for women’s suffrage. During World War II, millions of women heeded the call of duty by joining the work force, some even served in the military, in positions traditionally reserved for men. The experience of these women and the injustices they suffered helped ignite the women’s movement about a decade later. Again, women were on the front lines of the struggle for social change. Women protested against discrimination, for reproductive rights, and against domestic violence. We have made significant gains over the last 100 years to improve the status of women, but in this time of crisis women are disproportionately affected.
According to the U.N. Secretary General, the pandemic is having a devastating social and economic impact on women and girls. Domestic violence against women has increased during the pandemic; some states have taken the opportunity to attack reproductive rights; women are working at home while still being tasked with caring for the children at home; all while women are paid less than men. Indeed, the coronavirus has highlighted the inequalities still faced by women, sometimes in unexpected ways, for example one developing country recently provided advice for women on how they can politely ask their husbands to contribute to household duties during the crisis.
Like the women in the generations before, we should embrace the moment to advocate for fair policies for women. This is an especially opportune time to advocate for women-centered policies because many people, who are now sheltering at home, may now empathize with the need for affordable healthcare, affordable childcare services, flexible work schedules, and equal pay. This is our time to be advocates for change and to push for the policies that women need. We can do it.
-Article first published in LC News, May 2020
Elvira Cortez practices business and commercial litigation and employment defense at Dinsmore & Shohl, LLP and is the 2019-2020 president of Lawyers Club.