It’s pretty easy to feel demoralized about the state of women’s rights these days. Between #GamerGate, theRay Rice incident, a persistent gender pay gap (77 cents for every dollar), and the Hobby Lobby decision, 2014 has not exactly been kind to the gender equality movement. It’s more vital than ever for supporters of equal rights to ensure that elected officials understand the importance of advocating for, and responding to, the needs of women. This is true especially in New York, where the pay gap persists and we have the power to do something about it.
Thanks to the brand new Women’s Equality Party, there is a structure now in place for New Yorkers to take action and take charge. I sat down with former NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a supporter of the initiative, to get a better idea of what the Women’s Equality Party is all about and where it’s headed.
What is the goal of the Women’s Equality Party? The goal of the Women’s Equality Party first and foremost is to elect pro-women’s equality officials this year in Albany. At every level — governor, state representatives, state senators, and state assemblymen– we need to have pro-women elected officials. The goal is to make sure we pass the women’s equality agenda as soon as possible. Right now, we need to get 50,000 New Yorkers to vote the Women’s Equality Party line on Election Day to establish WEP as a party — all of these things are wrapped up together.
What inspired the creation of the Women’s Equality Party? [Governor Cuomo] was extremely frustrated that we were unable to pass the Women’s Equality Act in Albany last year. For all of us, this party is an opportunity for women to have their voices heard — but also to make sure elected officials know they need to be responsive to women. It’s not just that we’re disappointed; we’re taking action and using this party as a vehicle to hold them accountable.
What does the Party’s timeline look like? The next step is Election Day on November 4. We need to get 50,000 votes to establish the Women’s Equality Party, and then there’s some election law timelines related to structure of party.
After Election Day is the timeframe between then and start of legislative session in Albany. Our goal is to use the time between Election Day to January 1 to confirm, double confirm, triple confirm that we can get every vote needed to get the Women’s Equality Act passed right away.
Some people question these types of initiatives in New York because they think that in NYC, gender roles are already pretty equal and there’s little doubt that women have the wherewithal to run a business. How do you respond to comments like these? New York women are amazing and in many cases exceedingly successful. But let’s not pretend the level of work you have to put in is exactly the same for men. Women who succeed have to work harder. The truth is that the playing field is not level in New York or anywhere else. Women earn 77 cents on the dollar nationally. It’s better in New York, but it’s not one-to-one. We aren’t as far behind but that’s not that much comfort. This is the kind of discrimination WEP is fighting. Until we’re equal in every aspect we are unequal period. That’s what we’re going to fight for. We’re not going to capitulate to the wisdom of “Well, it’s better than other places.” New York has an obligation to equality. We are where the women’s rights movement began, where Seneca Falls happened. New York is where the LGBT civil rights movement began. We can’t accept equality as any less.