Spotlight: Kate Coler, VP of Government Relations at Albertsons Companies, on Women's Equality Day

Aug 29, 2017 9:00 AM ET

August 26th is Women's Equality Day, a day commemorating the signing of the 19th Amendment, which granted U.S. women the right to vote. On August 26, 1920, American women rightfully became part of the political process to form policies that would affect them, their families, schools, states and the entire country.

I've worked in or around government for 30 years, six of them representing and lobbying on behalf of Safeway and Albertsons Companies. Today, as I navigate around our nation's capital and engage with legislators, it's hard to imagine a federal, state or local government — an entire political process — void of the influence and presence of women.

The 19th Amendment not only changed women's voting status, but it led to a sweeping transformation of the nation's political and education systems, as well as the workforce and economy.

Before winning suffrage, state laws prohibited women from owning and inheriting property, signing contracts or controlling or managing their finances in any significant way. Employment opportunities were limited to low-wage service industry jobs. Since education was considered preparation for a career, most colleges and universities barred women or admitted a select few.

After women gained voting power, political candidates openly courted the female vote, and women took advantage by advocating for laws that would allow them to have individual economic security. Women voters were instrumental in the passage of educational and industrial reform, including child labor laws, and the implementation of state and federal programs that provided food and medical care to low-income children and women.

While employment opportunities remained limited until World War II, after the war, women who had gained financial independence with wartime jobs used their voting power and political pressure to reclaim a place in the workforce. Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that nearly 47 percent of U.S. workers are women. Their earnings equate to an estimated $15 trillion in spending power annually, according to Nielsen data.

As women increased their numbers in the workforce, there was an equivalent rise in enrollment numbers at colleges and universities across the country. Today, women outnumber men in both undergraduate and graduate college enrollment.

In my day-to-day work environment — government— women hold more elected positions and political clout than ever before, creating and influencing policies that impact the very areas of life that were so restricted 100 years ago —jobs, education, health, etc. Women hold 105 seats in the U.S. Congress, comprising nearly 20 percent of the 535 members. Nearly 25 percent of state legislators are women.

Today's generation of women voters has never taken the right to vote lightly or forgotten those who tirelessly fought to earn it. In fact, voter turnout for women has exceeded that of men in every presidential election since 1996I love that fact.  It shows that we're more determined than ever to not just be part of our nation's narrative, but to write it in bold letters.  

As we celebrate Women's Equality Day, let's remember the historic contributions of the women whose fight for suffrage became a movement that continues to shape and define our nation and impact practically every aspect of our lives. It certainly impacts mine. In fact, let's remember and honor everyone who fought for voting rights, women and men of all ethnicities and backgrounds, throughout our country's history. That vote, that voice, is the key to a successful democracy.

About Albertsons Companies

Albertsons Companies is one of the largest food and drug retailers in the United States, with both a strong local presence and national scale. We operate stores across 35 states and the District of Columbia under 20 well-known banners including Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen and Carrs. Albertsons Companies is committed to helping people across the country live better lives by making a meaningful difference, neighborhood by neighborhood.