By Adrian Aumen, College of Arts & Sciences
PULLMAN, Wash. – A professor at Washington State University is leading a first-of-its-kind study of efforts to close the gender gap in the U.S. and abroad. Results will be made available to government leaders, policymakers and advocates to improve policy development and outcomes.
The goal is to “gain unprecedented insight into how to make democracies more responsive to the demands of all citizens,” said Amy Mazur, the Claudius O. and Mary W. Johnson distinguished professor in political science at WSU.
‘New frontier’ of study methods
Mazur and two colleagues at universities in Great Britain cofounded Gender Equality Policy in Practice, or GEPP (http://www.csbppl.com/gepp/) – a comparative, look at the last 40 years of legislation and policies that formally promote women’s rights and gender equality in 24 democratic countries.
To address the five-year study’s many variables and complexity, the researchers designed an innovative, systematic approach using a concise framework and concrete measures, Mazur said.
“It’s the new frontier for people working on gender and policy,” she said. “No one has satisfactorily measured these things or assessed these types of street-level politics. We’re seeing some interesting new tools developed by people in different countries.”
“Amy’s work is especially significant for connecting efforts across Europe and the U.S. to improve women’s lives everywhere,” said Patricia Glazebrook, director of the WSU School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs (https://pppa.wsu.edu/).
How, and if, policies affect women’s progress
Mazur is working with more than 80 researchers from across North America, Europe and Australia to determine which policies enacted during the “second wave” of feminist/women’s movements in the 1960s-70s have achieved their goals.
“We need to understand the connections between policies and changes in women’s rights,” Mazur said. “We need to see if a policy is really causing the change.
“For example, in this country, the pay gap between men and women closed for a while. As it turned out, it wasn’t because women were being paid more,” she said. “It was because men were being paid less.”
Western democracies in the past four decades have enacted numerous laws and policies to alleviate gender inequality, such as the U.S. Equal Pay Act, Civil Rights Act, Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act.
Advancing opportunity and equity
The GEPP researchers are examining seven areas of policy that particularly affect women: equal employment, gender-based violence, higher education, immigration, care (daycare, eldercare, etc.), intimate citizenship (reproductive rights and sex education) and political representation.
The project aligns with WSU’s focus on the grand challenge of advancing opportunity and equity to improve lives. Limited financial support has been provided by domestic and international organizations, including a travel grant from the WSU College of Arts and Sciences for Mazur to participate in critical plenary meetings.