Honoring humanity creates an equitable and just society.


The Washington State Office of Equity champions equity and justice for women and celebrates women who shaped the state’s history and are instrumental to its future success. The make our state truly accessible to all, we advocate for ensuring that all women have access to the opportunities, power, and resources they need to succeed and are welcomed, supported, and feel a sense of belonging when working in or seeking assistance from state agencies.

We count on the commitment, partnership, and support of women  – across the state, inside and outside of state government, - in the important work of dismantling the historic, systemic, power dynamics that oppress women, while building new systems and safeguards that advance representation and ensure that women  have access to participation in all aspects of society (such as, government, business, education) until each and every woman in the state flourishes and achieves their full potential.

Portrait of a woman

Women have silently, vocally, and persistently pushed back against the restrictions that have been placed upon them throughout history. Women fought for their right to vote. White women obtained the right to vote in Washington in 1910, which was 10 years before the right to vote occurred for white women nationwide. Black women would not effectively have the right to vote until the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. Women fought to be represented in policy making in Washington, which was first realized in 1912 when Frances C. Axtell and Nena J. Croake were elected to the state Legislature. They fought for equal rights, protection under the law and for positions in leadership.

Today women continue to face sexism, gender bias, discrimination, and institutional barriers to equal participation in society, particularly in the workforce. Even as women have made progress in pay equity, the “glass ceiling” continues as a reality for many. Inequities have only intensified throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a disproportionate impact on women whose jobs and livelihoods are more vulnerable to the pandemic. In addition to pay equity and economic opportunity and security, women continue to advocate for their safety, as evidenced by the missing and murdered indigenous women, and for health equity, an example of which is the high maternal mortality for women in child birth and for all women and disproportionately for women of color.

As wives, mothers, sisters and aunts, women often find themselves the primary caretakers of their loved ones. When looking at demographics for women, it’s important to keep in mind that women are included in all races and ethnicities, and nearly all demographics groups. Women, who make up more than half of the U.S. population, are part of the groups of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans. There are women with disabilities, women in the LGBTQ+ community, women veterans, women immigrants and women of all age groups. In all their beautiful diversity, women deserve social and economic equity.

Workforce and population data show that women and minorities are underrepresented and have yet to achieve pay equity in many fields. While many major corporations have worked to increase the number of women and minorities in their ranks, and to increase pay equity for underrepresented groups, stubborn gaps remain a challenge.

In the McKinsey Global Institute article, “COVID-19 and gender equality: Countering the regressive effects” (July 15, 2020), research shows women are more vulnerable to COVID-19-related economic effects because of existing gender inequalities. The article states, “The evidence from our research is clear: what is good for greater gender equality is also good for the economy and society as a whole. The COVID-19 pandemic puts that into stark relief and raises some critically important choices: act now to remove barriers to greater female labor-force participation and a bigger role in society and reap the economic and social benefits; delay and still benefit, but to a substantially lesser degree; or allow the disappointing status quo to prevail and slide backward, leaving massive economic opportunity on the table and negatively affecting the lives of millions of women. Parity is powerful. This is the time for policy makers and business leaders to step up and make it a reality.”

As noted in Washington State Women's Commission 2020 Biennial Report:

  • Four times more women than men dropped out of the U.S. workforce in September 2020.

Source: Ewing, C. "Four Times More Women Than Men Dropped Out of the Labor Force in September," National Women's Law Center, 2021.

  • There is a 5% predicted increase in gender wage gap after the pandemic recession.

Source: "COVID-19 Impact on Women in the Workplace," Boston College Center for Work & Family, 2020.

In the comprehensive Women in the Workplace 2016 study conducted by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, 132 companies employing more than 4.6 million people shared their pipeline data and completed a survey of HR practices, and 34,000 employees completed a survey designed to uncover their attitudes on gender, job satisfaction, ambition and work-life issues.

Key points of the Women in the Workplace 2016 report include the following:

  • For every 100 women promoted to manager, 130 men are promoted.
  • Very few women are in line to become CEO.
  • Women experience an uneven playing field.
  • Women are negotiating as often as men—but face pushback when they do.
  • Women get less access to senior leaders.
  • Women ask for feedback as often as men—but are less likely to receive it.
  • Women are less interested in becoming top executives—and see the pros and cons of senior leadership differently.

Washington must continue to strive to become more equitable, diverse, and inclusive in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, and age. Helping women thrive, be healthier and more fulfilled by advancing equity (fairness with each other), diversity (embracing differences in ourselves and others) and inclusion (participation, collaboration and responsibility) will help us all to realize our full potential. While including a number of balancing strategies, tactics and best practices, it will also be important to commit to three important activities to address the following equity concerns for women:

  • Prioritizing gender inclusion.
  • Investing in recognizing and supporting the vast diversity represented by women.
  • Identifying and implementing the most effective means of including women in economic and civic opportunities.
Stay focused on the acceptance of yourself and others. Choose compassion over judgment and curiosity over fear. Tracee Ellis Ross