EDITORIAL: Women leaders continue to march toward progress

York Dispatch Editorial Board

The weather didn’t cooperate, the government was shut down and there were internal struggles but, as the saying goes, they persisted. An estimated 60,000 participants turned out in Washington, D.C., on Saturday for the third annual Women’s March. Hundreds of “sister rallies” were held in cities throughout the United States. (A rally planned for York was rescheduled to March 30 due to bad weather.)

The numbers may have been smaller than the post-Donald Trump inauguration rallies of 2017, which saw millions fill the streets of D.C. and other cities across the nation, but the strength and passion remain strong.

Good thing — they’re going to be needed:

  • Women continue to earn less than men for the same work.
  • Women remain woefully underrepresented in boardrooms, statehouses and other bastions of power.
  • Women too often continue to face violence or sexual assault in workplaces, on college campuses, in the military and elsewhere, and then encounter skepticism and criticism when seeking justice.
  • Women’s health and reproductive rights continue to be targeted by conservative-minded opponents.

There is no end to the issues that touch the lives of women either predominately or exclusively. Of course, to suggest that women leaders — activists, educators, CEOs, lawmakers — limit themselves to addressing only these issues is to belittle their ambition and diminish their voices.

In fact, the Women’s March organization released a wide-ranging new agenda that states positions on a variety of areas across the board.

Participants begin to march from Freedom Plaza at the Third Annual Women's March in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. (Darryl Smith/TNS)

Which is as it should be. From civil rights, to immigration, to the environment, the full range of challenges facing society today need voices, vision and vitality from all perspectives.

That’s just one reason the increasing role of women in politics is a welcome, if long overdue, development.

A record number of women — more than 125 — are in Congress this term, providing a more representative makeup to the Capitol. (Especially on the Democratic side of the aisle; of the 127 women in the House and Senate, 102 are Democrats.)

And — Hallelujah! — Pennsylvania finally once again has female representation in its congressional delegation, thanks to November election victories by Democratic House candidates Mary Gay Scanlon, Madeleine Dean, Chrissy Houlahan and Susan Wild.

These office-holders are among the leaders that those who took to the streets last weekend look to as they seek change — in the workplace, in the courthouse and in the White House.

It is no secret the 2016 election of President Trump was the match that lit the fuse of recent political activism among women. And it is hardly surprising that four of Trump’s would-be Democratic challengers for 2020 are women: Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California; Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; and Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii.

Meanwhile, young firebrands like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York force the conversation on marginal tax rates while seasoned House Speaker Nancy Pelosi navigates the ever-unpredictable White House. 

The Women’s March movement faced headwinds this year, mainly splintered leadership and accusations of anti-Semitism against some of the original organizers. Allowing such schisms to fester would be a disappointment — to the movement and to millions of women.

After all, the explosion of enthusiasm that produced the 2017 march led to unprecedented numbers of women candidates in 2018. And the power of women at the ballot box in 2018 led to, among other benefits, a stronger female voice in Washington in 2019.

That voice must now continue to speak out for equal rights, civil rights, human rights and women’s rights.

There have been steps in the right direction, but women are far from attaining the fairness and equality they demand and deserve. They must continue the march toward progress.