We recently passed the 100th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage. About half of Americans agree that the right to vote was the most important milestone in the advancement of women in the U.S. At the same time, a majority of American adults think we haven’t gone far enough to ensure women have equal rights.
These were some of the findings of a survey by the Pew Research Center. The survey dug down into the progress women have made toward personal and workplace equality and what issues remain to be addressed.
What factors have had the most impact on equal rights? According to 49% of respondents, women getting the right to vote was primary. Another 29% said that the passage of the Equal Pay Act was the most important milestone toward equality. Others identified the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (12%) and the availability of the birth control pill (8%) as primary factors in equality.
The feminist movement got some attention in this regard, as well. Around 41% of women said that feminism has helped them at least a little, and this response was more common among women with a bachelor’s degree or higher and those under 50. Only 7% said that feminism had personally hurt them.
Meanwhile, about 60% of Americans think that feminism has had at least a little bit of positive impact on the lives of white, Black and Latino women. However, more (32%) thought that feminism has helped white women than thought the same for Black (21%) or Latino (15%) women. Twenty-four percent thought that feminism had helped wealthy women a lot, while only 10% thought it has been equally helpful to poor women.
How far should the country go toward equal rights?
The question of whether the U.S. has gone far enough in advancing gender equality resulted in large partisan divides, at least in the details. Among Democrats, 76% said the country has not gone far enough to ensure women have equal rights. Another 19% said the country has gone about far enough and 4% said it has gone too far.
Among Republicans, by contrast, only a third said the country hasn’t gone far enough. Forty-eight percent said it has done enough and 17% said the country has gone too far.
That said, women were about 10 percentage points more likely than men to say that the country hasn’t gone far enough to ensure equality for women.
Another area that saw a partisan divide was the question of whether women’s gains have come at the expense of men. A large majority (76%) of Americans said that women’s gains have not come at the expense of men, while 22% thought that they had. However, as many as 38% of Republican men thought women’s gains had hurt men, as opposed to just 12% of Democratic women.
Is recent progress being made?
Across party lines, the majority of Americans say that the U.S. has made progress towards gender equality in the last 10 years. And, among those who said that America has not gone far enough toward equality, a large majority said that we will eventually get there.
Does America need the Equal Rights Amendment?
About 78% of U.S. adults, including both Democrats and Republicans, were in favor of adding the ERA to the U.S. Constitution. However, 49% didn’t think it would make much of a difference if we did so.
Workplace equality touted as an example
When asked what an equal society would look like, 53% of respondents cited workplace examples. For example, 45% said that equal pay would indicate equality in general, while another 19% said there should be no discrimination in hiring, promotion and educational opportunities. Nine percent said there would be more equal representation in business and political leadership.
Sexual harassment cited as the most common obstacle
When asked what the major obstacles to women’s equality might be, 77% of respondents said that sexual harassment was a major obstacle. Sixty-seven percent said that women lacking equal legal rights was a major obstacle, and 66% cited different social expectations for men and women. Another 64% said there are not enough women in positions of power, and 43% pointed to family responsibilities.