Women’s History Month: Fast Facts and Protecting Our Progress

a look at recent strides forward in women’s equality and gaps left to bridge

Women wearing white with a celebratory backdrop. They have serious expressions and are in power stances - as if they've paused celebrating to remind you of an inconvenient truth.

March is Women’s History Month, and while we’ve come a long way, there is much work to be done to bridge the gap to protect our progress thus far.

1. Legislative Progress: Empowering Women in Business

In 1988, the Women’s Business Ownership Act marked a significant legislative milestone by eliminating the requirement for women to secure a male relative’s co-signature for business loans. This move shattered barriers and allowed women to independently pursue entrepreneurial endeavors.

2. Historical Context on Financial Independence

Before the Equal Credit Opportunity Act passed in 1974, women faced substantial obstacles in accessing credit, often requiring a male cosigner. This historical context underscores the journey toward financial autonomy for women.

3. Rapid Growth in Women-Owned Businesses

Recent data reveals a remarkable surge in women-owned businesses, accounting for 39.1% of all U.S. businesses. This substantial growth, a 13.6% increase from 2019 to 2023, highlights the flourishing landscape of female entrepreneurship in the country.

Source: National Women’s Business Council, 2023

4. Access to Capital Remains a Challenge

Despite strides in gender equality, women entrepreneurs still encounter challenges in accessing capital. Shockingly, all-female founder teams receive less than 2% of venture capital funding, highlighting persistent disparities in financial support.

Source: PitchBook and National Venture Capital Association, 2023

5. Maternity Leave Legislation: Striving for Equity

Although the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 granted certain employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected maternity leave, the absence of federal paid maternity leave remains a glaring gap in policy. This disparity disproportionately affects women in various sectors, including fast food workers, underscoring the need for comprehensive legislative reform.

6. Right to Serve on a Jury: Breaking Barriers

Until 1973, women in the United States faced restrictions on serving on juries in all 50 states. This historical limitation hindered women’s full participation in the legal system, reflecting entrenched societal biases and perceptions.

7. Institutionalization by Husbands: A Dark Legacy

Historically, husbands wielded alarming authority over their wives’ autonomy, with the ability to institutionalize them in mental institutions without consent or evidence of mental illness. The gradual abolition of this practice, extending into the mid-20th century, highlights the long-standing battle for women’s rights and autonomy.

8. Title IX and Education: Championing Equality

Enacted in 1972, Title IX revolutionized education by prohibiting sex-based discrimination in federally funded institutions. This landmark legislation paved the way for equal opportunities in sports, STEM fields, and beyond, empowering women and girls to pursue their academic and athletic aspirations without prejudice.

Striving for Inclusive Solutions

Amidst contemporary debates on gender identity and sports participation, it’s crucial to prioritize inclusive solutions that protect the rights and opportunities of all individuals. During Women’s History Month and every month, together, let’s remain steadfast in our commitment to forging a future where every woman and girl can thrive, both personally and professionally.

Like this content? Check out the inhabit Podcast where I go in depth on topics like this and more.

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