What's at Stake

A look back at history shows that women have made great strides in the fight for equality, including womens suffrage and inroads in equal opportunity in the workplace and education. 

Despite the tremendous progress made in the struggle for gender equality, women still face violence, discrimination, and institutional barriers to equal participation in society.  

Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, the ACLU Women’s Rights Project pushes for change and systemic reform in institutions that perpetuate discrimination against women, focusing its work in the areas of employment, violence against women, and education.  

In the employment realm, laws and workplace policies that exclude women from certain job sectors and allow them to be forced out of the workplace when they become pregnant or return to work after having a baby cause persistent disparities in women’s income, wealth, and economic security. 

Survivors of gender-based violence face discrimination when police, schools, landlords, and other institutions fail to adequately address and prevent violence and also when laws and policies penalize them, impeding the ability of women and girls to live safely and with dignity.  

In the education sector, many public schools have introduced programs based on unfounded stereotypes about the learning abilities and preferences of boys and girls, limiting equal educational opportunities for all.

Current Issues

Pregnancy and Parenting Discrimination

Firing women because they are pregnant, or treating pregnant workers worse than other workers who are also temporarily unable to perform some aspects of a job, has been illegal since 1978, when Congress enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. But employers still do it, and, unfortunately, some courts have upheld these practices when employers come up with a “pregnancy-blind” reason to leave pregnant workers out in the cold. When women are pushed out of the workplace, they lose important income and benefits, contributing to a gender wealth gap between men and women. After they give birth, women workers are the targets of discrimination if they need to pump breast milk to remain on the job. The ACLU has long fought back against these discriminatory practices in the courts and legislatures.

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Violence Against Women

The ACLU strives for a world in which women and girls live free from violence by challenging discrimination against survivors of violence in housing, employment, education, and government services and benefits, and by holding governments accountable for responding to and taking proactive measures to stop the cycle of violence.

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Women's Rights in the Workplace

Employment is critical to women’s equality because economic opportunity allows women to be independent and lead their lives with dignity. Women still have not reached parity with men in earnings. They are frequently pushed out of the workplace when they become pregnant or return to work after having a baby, resulting in economic insecurity and contributing to lifelong wealth and income disparities. Women still lack full access to traditionally male fields, including the military; they are often steered into lower-paying and less desirable jobs; and the industries that are dominated by women remain the least valued.

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Women's Rights in Education

The ACLU is working to guarantee all students equal access to educational opportunities and resources in an educational environment free from gender-based stereotypes, violence, and harassment.

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Women and Criminal Justice

Every day, in courtrooms, legislatures, and the public square, the ACLU fights to ensure that the criminal justice system treats women and girls fairly, protects the health and safety of women in its custody, and facilitates their successful reentry into their communities.

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