Policy Focus

AAUW’s 2020 Gender Policy Agenda

Economic Security

1. Ensure Equal Pay for Equal Work. Women working full time still typically make 82 cents on the dollar as compared to men, and women of color experience even wider gaps. Policymakers need to close the stubborn gender and racial pay gaps.

  • Federal: pass thePaycheck Fairness Act, the Pay Equity for All Act and the Fair Pay Act. Implement regulations to help businesses identify and correct biased pay practices, such as collecting wage data aggregated by sex and race.
  • State and local: states should identify holes in existing laws and work to fill those gaps. Municipalities should enact salary-history bans and require wage-data collection.

2. Implement Paid Leave and Paid Sick Days. Unlike the majority of developed countries worldwide, the U.S. does not guarantee paid time off for illness, family care or parental leave. Offering such paid time off would improve worker performance, benefiting employees,  employers and the economy. Elected officials must adopt policies to give workers paid time off for illness and care giving.

  • Federal: pass the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act and the Healthy Families Act.
  • State and local: states should establish paid leave programs or insurance laws for illness and care giving. Governors can enact policies providing protections to state workers if the legislature will not act. Municipalities should pass legislation providing protections to municipal workers if the state will not act.

3. Stop Harassment in the Workplace. Instituting robust protections against sexual, racial and other forms of harassment in employment will lead to great economic security for women. Policymakers should prioritize policies that put workers first and allow everyone to do their jobs without the threat of harassment or retaliation.

  • Federal: pass the BE HEARD in the Workplace Act, the EMPOWER Act, and the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act.
  • State: ban mandatory arbitration and nondisclosure agreements as a condition of employment, expand the workers covered by anti-harassment laws, and codify strong anti-retaliation policies.

4Raise the Minimum Wage and Eliminate the Tipped Minimum Wage. Women comprise a majority of the low-wage workforce, and Black women and Latinas are significantly over-represented in the low-wage workforce. Elected officials need to raise the minimum wage to an adequate level to keep millions of families from living in poverty.

  • Federal: pass the Raise Wage Act of 2019.
  • State: pass legislation to raise the state minimum wage to $15 per hour and eliminate the tipped minimum wage. Repeal any laws preempting localities from raising the minimum wage above the state level

5. Close the Retirement Gap. Because of such factors as the gender pay gap and time away from work for care giving responsibilities, women lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars in earnings, making it difficult for them to accumulate savings. Lawmakers need to address the retirement wage gap by protecting Social Security and strengthening retirement benefits and programs, including pension improvements.

  • Federal: maintain and strengthen current Social Security benefits, including full cost-of-living adjustments, guaranteed lifetime benefits, a progressive benefit formula, spousal and widow benefits and disability and survivor benefits.
  • State: require employers to offer a retirement savings plan for workers or create a marketplace to facilitate plan assessments.

6. Protect Pregnant Workers. Pregnant workers are sometimes pushed out of their jobs unnecessarily, but simple reasonable accommodations could help protect their health and ensure that they could continue working to support their families. Lawmakers should support pregnant workers by ensuring that they do not have to choose between their own health or the job and income they need.

  • Federal: pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
  • State: establish protections for pregnant works so that they can access reasonable accommodations.


1. Defend and Strengthen Title IX. Since the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, schools have made significant strides in providing equal access to education. But barriers still exist, particularly for women and underrepresented populations. Elected officials must bolster the protections afforded by Title IX and faithfully implement and enforce this vital law.

  • Federal: pass the Hold Accountable and Lend Transparency on Campus Sexual Violence Act, the Patsy T. Mink and Louise M. Slaughter Gender Equity in Education Act (GEEA), the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act, and advocate against regulatory action seeking to weaken Title IX protections and enforcement.
  • State: enact laws that align with the statutory provisions and intent of Title IX, making it clear and easy for schools to support students in accessing their education.

2. Reduce Student Debt. Women hold two-thirds of the nation’s $1.46 trillion educational debt. Policymakers should protect grant programs, champion tuition- and debt-free options and expand loan forgiveness programs.

  • Federal: protect and expand the Pell Grant Program, make loan repayment and forgiveness programs more accessible to borrowers and address the costs students face beyond tuition by supporting programs like the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program.
  • State: enact loan repayment and forgiveness programs, increase need-based grant aid, and create “promise” programs that cover tuition and non-tuition expenses so the neediest students can succeed.

3. Expand Opportunities for Women and Girls in STEM. Careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are rapidly growing, but bias and discrimination inhibit women and girls from pursuing these fields. Lawmakers should help battle implicit and explicit bias by promoting programs that increase women’s participation and advancement in STEM education and careers.

  • Federal: pass the STEM Opportunities Act.
  • State: establish grants and programs that encourage women and minorities to pursue STEM education and training.

Foundational Rights

1. Expand and Protect the Right to Vote. Voting discrimination is a threat to the very foundation of our democracy. Ensuring the right to vote is a prerequisite to establishing all the other policies AAUW advocates. Elected officials must protect and expand voting rights.

  • Federal: pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act.
  • State: establish automatic voter registration, promote early and online voting, institute voting modernization measures, support criminal re-enfranchisement and end partisan gerrymandering by creating nonpartisan redistricting procedures.

2. Ensure Access to High-Quality Healthcare. It is critical to women’s economic security to have access to high-quality, affordable healthcare, including reproductive health care and family planning, and to have the control over such decisions. Policymakers must ensure all people have equal access to such care.

  • Federal: pass the Women’s Health Protection Act and protect the Affordable Care Act.
  • State: expand access to health care, specifically reproductive health care, and states that have enacted harmful policies must roll them back.

3. Ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) would guarantee constitutional equality between men and women — a concept the majority of Americans agree is necessary and that most people believe is already codified. Lawmakers should ratify the ERA to ensure that advances we have made in women’s equality are not changed or revoked.

  • Federal: pass the joint resolution removing the deadline for ratification of the ERA or support the language of the ERA as a new amendment.
  • State: ratify the ERA if your state has not already done so and pass a state-level ERA

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