Action needed to protect women in the workforce

Action needed to protect women in the workforce
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In my role as Capital One’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, I lead a talented and energized team whose mission is to help our business grow by nurturing and developing a diverse workforce. We want all of our associates to feel included, valued, and heard. We strive to create an environment where everyone can thrive, with opportunities to advance and to see themselves represented at every level of our company. 

Financial services is an industry where women are making great progress but are still under-represented at the highest levels and when compared to other sectors. Earlier this year, the House Financial Services Committee created a subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), charged with oversight of diversity and inclusion policies and practices in the financial services industry. While we have accomplished much, there is still work to be done.

We know that supporting greater diversity and inclusion within and outside our organization is the right thing to do and it makes good business sense. Increasing representation and diversity at the board of directors and executive levels and across the broader tech and financial services industries are issues many companies are laser-focused on and working to steadily improve. 

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Companies are constantly reviewing processes and looking for ways to improve in this space. While many improvements are driven by business decisions and corporate values, all levels of government have an important role to play in creating a level playing field and developing fair and sensible rules of the road.

Fairness is our goal and one we must work to achieve and build upon every day. To that end, action is needed on important legislation to advance and protect women’s positions in the workplace and provide greater opportunities for future generations.

This year marks 150 years since Wyoming became the first state to grant women the right to vote. Next year is the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote nationwide.

Congress and the states now have a historic and compelling opportunity to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) which would enshrine equal rights for women in the US Constitution and clearly and definitively prohibit discrimination based on sex.

Thirty-seven states already passed the ERA and 26 states have equal rights protections embedded in their state constitutions. Federal legislation championed by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and many others, is also pending.

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Women vote in higher numbers than men and have done so in every election since 1964. In 2016, 9.9 million more women than men voted. Women have also voted at higher rates than men since 1980. In 2016, over 63 percent of eligible female adults went to the polls, compared to 59 percent of eligible male adults.

Even in midterm elections, when voter turnout is lower among men and women, women vote in higher numbers and at higher rates than men. Today, women make up 23 percent of the House of Representatives and 25 percent of the Senate. Also, 9 women are currently serving as governors and over 2,100 women serve in state legislatures. Countless others are respected leaders in municipal governments across the country. 

Women’s voices are being heard at the ballot box. Women are claiming their places and leading effectively in the boardroom, the C-suites, and in all levels of government. When Congress and the states act favorably on the ERA and other measures it will show their commitment to ensuring equal protections, opportunities, and pay for women. A century has passed since the trailblazing work of Susan B. AnthonyElizabeth Cady StantonLucretia Mott and countless others. Now is the time to continue to move us forward and for policymakers to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in support of women.

Meghan Welch is SVP and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Capital One.