Supermajority Education Fund and the State Innovation Exchange (SiX) have teamed up to shine a spotlight on state legislation that embodies the five “Majority Rules.” The Majority Rules are a value based-agenda informed by conversations with thousands of women* across the United States. These rules demand that: (1) our lives are safe, (2) our bodies are respected, (3) our work is valued, (4) our families are supported, and (5) our government represents us. By implementing public policies that realize these values, we can continue to protect, secure, and extend our rights to all women, especially those who have historically been blocked from exercising their basic rights.
Perhaps unlike ever before, the essential work to advance equality, including protecting the freedom to vote, abortion access, and other women’s rights, is taking place in state legislatures. For this reason, this interactive site and our full joint report uplifts recent state legislation aligned with these Majority Rules and highlights the women legislators and activists, particularly women of color, who have championed them. If you believe in the Majority Rules and are ready for a future where gender equality is the reality, then we hope that you utilize these resources to explore state-level policy options and to learn from the women and allies leading these reforms.
*We value the liberation of all people, and this publication uses an expansive definition of women, which includes trans and cisgender women, gender nonbinary people, and anyone who has been marginalized due to their gender.
MAJORITY RULE 1Our lives are safe.
We live free of fear, intimidation and violence at home, at work and in our neighborhoods—no matter where we’re from, who we love, or how we identify.
Each year in the United States, an estimated 8.6 million women are stalked.
Unfortunately, this is far from the current reality. Each year in the United States, an estimated 8.6 million women are stalked. From mounting instances of mass shootings and gun violence against women and children, climbing rates of intimate partner violence to escalating crimes perpetrated against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women, rising murders of trans women, to increasing disappearances of both Black and Indigenous women, we are subjected to an onslaught of threats in our day-to-day lives which threaten our ability to feel safe and navigate the world freely.
Reforms must address these stark realities to ensure that women can live free from violence, for example by:
- Restricting access to firearms for individuals convicted of domestic violence, subject to a protective order, or at risk of committing violence against themselves or others.
- Helping survivors of human trafficking to clear their criminal records.
- Allowing victims of stalking to terminate their lease with no financial penalties.
Case Study: Stalking Lease Release, Sen. Kim Jackson (Georgia)
MAJORITY RULE 2Our bodies are respected.
The healthcare system takes our needs seriously, from medical treatment to making decisions about if and when to start a family.
Every year, approximately 700 women die from pregnancy or its complications.
The fight to realize the second Majority Rule may be the most salient and bold endeavor of our time. Right now, lawmakers across the country are seeking to restrict the freedom of women to access the education, resources, and care that we deem necessary for our health and wellbeing. One thing is abundantly clear—these policies are not about healthcare. They are about controlling women and people who can become pregnant.
For there to be true bodily autonomy, our healthcare system must respect the dignity and bodily autonomy of all women. The second Majority Rule also demands that we name and combat systemic inequities which prevent Black, Indigenous, and other women of color, pregnant people, and trans women from attaining equitable access to high-quality healthcare and health outcomes. Every year, approximately 700 women die from pregnancy or its complications, and the maternal mortality crisis is deadliest for women of color.
State lawmakers can protect our right to bodily autonomy by:
- Codifying the right to abortion and expanding access to abortion care by preventing the criminalization of pregnancy.
- Expanding access to contraceptive care by broadening who can prescribe contraception.
- Addressing disparate health outcomes by requiring implicit bias training for medical providers.
Case Study: The Reproductive Health Equity Act, Sen. Julie Gonzales (Colorado)
MAJORITY RULE 3Our work is valued.
We are paid equally for our work and get promoted equally too. The jobs primarily done by women—from teaching to caregiving—are valued and supported. All women can retire with dignity and enjoy the life they worked hard for.
Overall, women in the United States are paid only 83 cents for every dollar their male counterparts are paid.
Overall, women in the United States are paid only 83 cents for every dollar their male counterparts are paid. Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander women are paid 75 cents, Black women are paid 64 cents, Indigenous women are paid 60 cents, and Latinas are paid 57 cents. Women make this nation run every single day, and there is a need for a reckoning to address the way we women are treated in the workforce. These problems existed long before the pandemic began. And the solutions are evident—if we want our society to function, we must pay all women equitable and livable wages, strengthen collective bargaining rights to narrow the racial and gender wage gap, and institute stronger protections from workforce discrimination and exploitation.
State legislators have leveled the playing field for women in the workplace by:
- Increasing state minimum wage laws and repealing subminimum wage laws for tipped and domestic workers and codifying equal pay for equal work.
- Preventing wage theft, and retaliation for whistleblowing.
- Supporting industry specific standards and protections through creation of wage boards for home care workers, domestic workers, and nail salon workers.
- Enhancing workplace protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and hair textures/styles.
Case Study: Giving Home Care Workers Bargaining Power, Sen. Dina Neal (Nevada)
Case Study: The C.R.O.W.N. Act, Sen. Dina Neal (Nevada)
MAJORITY RULE 4Our families are supported.
We are no longer forced to make impossible and unfair choices between family and work. Providing the best care for our families, from infancy to old age, is possible and affordable for all of us.
Over the course of the pandemic, more than 3 million American women have been forced to leave the workforce.
Over the course of the pandemic, more than 3 million American women, who are both disproportionately women of color and overrepresented in the education, child care, service, and healthcare industries, have been forced to leave the workforce.
When the world as we knew it shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation was forced to look critically at how our societal infrastructure, or lack thereof, has failed women in our roles as both workers and caregivers. Researchers estimate that the lack of family-friendly policies that are available in other high-wealth nations accounts for nearly one-third of the decrease in women’s labor force participation rates in the United States. As one sociologist put it: “Other countries have social safety nets. The U.S. has women.”
The fourth Majority Rule recognizes that no woman should have to choose between the family that they love and the paycheck that they need. When our families are supported, society benefits from women’s talent, labor, and skills.
States can support caregivers, for example by:
- Investing in public programs like child care assistance and universal pre-kindergarten.
- Providing direct cash transfers to low-and middle-income families through Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) and Child Tax Credits (CTC).
- Establishing paid family and medical leave and paid sick and safe leave programs.
Case Study: Sick Leave for Colorado Employees Rep. Yadira Caraveo (Colorado)
Case Study: The Time to Care Act in Maryland
MAJORITY RULE 5Our government represents us.
From the school board to the White House, women are represented. The right to vote is protected and promoted, all voters have access to the polls and every vote is counted.
Women are the majority of Americans yet only make up 31.2% of state legislators.
Women are the majority of Americans yet only make up 31.2% of state legislators. Women of color are a rapidly-growing share of the electorate, representing almost one-third of all voting-age women, but only a small share of state legislators; 73.3 percent of women state legislators identified as white. Because we do not have equitable representation in elected leadership, our government fails to recognize us as the force that we are. For generations, the systems that govern our society have intentionally excluded women—particularly, women of color, immigrant women, LGBTQIA+ women, and women with disabilities. These systems are operating as intended. It is time that our government represents us.
States can strengthen the political power of women, for example by:
- Modernizing state legislatures by increasing legislator compensation.
- Reforming campaign finance laws by establishing small donor public financing of elections and allowing candidates to utilize campaign funds for child care expenses.
- Protecting and strengthening our freedom to vote by creating a state election holiday, providing multilingual ballot access, and establishing a state version of the voting rights act with state-level preclearance law for local elections.
Case Study: How We Increase Representation of Mothers and Caregivers In Public Office, Sarah Hague, Vote Mama Foundation
We cannot ignore that an existential struggle is raging in the United States with our civil and human rights on the line. The trauma of these events is relentless and we know that it is taking a toll on women, BIPOC communities, the gender-oppressed, and our most marginalized.
But we see glimmers of hope across this country that give us the strength to keep fighting. Women are the hope. Together we must be a united front with our demands for progress and a future where all women’s lives are safe, our bodies are respected, our work is valued, our families are supported, and our government represents us.
HOW TO SUPPORT STATE POLICY REFORM
We hope that the information shared here serves as a guide for you to learn about policy options in your state. For this reason, we have developed this resource to provide ideas on what can be done right now to address the issues that resonate deeply with you and your community. The following are steps to support public policy reform at the state level. While this list is numbered, it is not a fixed sequence—all policy reform efforts are different!
1. Identify a Problem
- Select a specific problem that you want to address (remember to make sure it is something that can be addressed at the state-level).
- Analyze why the problem needs to be addressed and the cost of inaction.
- Find research/statistics that explain the problem.
- Find personal stories/anecdotes that “humanize” the problem.
2. Identify a Policy Solution
- Determine a policy solution.
- Determine whether this policy solution is best implemented through a bill or something else (e.g. constitutional amendment, ballot initiative, administrative rule, executive order).
- Analyze how the policy solution would address the problem and who would be most affected by it.
- Find additional research/statistics that support your solution.
- Determine whether this policy solution has been attempted in your state in the past, and if so, investigate why it was not fully enacted or implemented.
3. Find Supporters and Allies
- Identify and work with current advocates in this space.
- Build relationships with or join issue allies (including adjacent advocacy groups).
- Identify neutral groups who may have influence over the solution and determine tactics for moving these groups from neutral to support.
4. Work with State Policymakers
- Understand the state policymaking process, including the bill process, budget process, important session dates, and relevant legislative committees and leadership for your bill topic.
- Build relationships with state policymakers.
- Provide public testimony (written and oral).
5. Increase Public Awareness
- Educate yourself and others about the “herstory” behind the issue (for example, see this reproductive justice framework from SisterSong).
- Use social media to connect your network to this issue.
- Draft op-eds and letters to the editor for local newspapers, and remember to highlight legislative champions.
- Join a rally or town hall event (even a tele-town hall).
- Stay safe during direct actions and protests and know your rights as a protestor.
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