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Why do we need a Women's Center?

A woman’s experience is inarguably shaped by her gender and the way it intersects with her other identities, such as her race, class, sexuality, ability, etc. Therefore, being a woman means having experiences—and disadvantages—that are fundamentally different from men’s.

Economically speaking, women worldwide are paid less than men, and in most countries earn 25 to 40% less than men do. Women are more likely to work for hourly wages, to work in the informal sector, or to do unpaid work within the home. In the United States, women own 36.3% of privately-held businesses, and 89.5% of these women-owned firms have no employees apart from the owner. On average, women start these businesses with half as much capital available to them as men do. Women are only 14.6% of executive officers and 4.6% of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

Likewise, women are severely underrepresented in politics. In the United States, only 104 women serve in Congress, a body of 535 people; that makes them 19.4% of its members. Out of the nation’s 50 state governors, in 2016, only six are women, and 22 states have never had a female governor. Illinois is one of them. Out of the mayors of America’s largest cities, only 12% are women, and on average, 2 men are appointed to state-level cabinets for every woman. It’s easy to become desensitized to the fact that the U.S. has had 44 presidents over more than two centuries, but not one has been a woman.

Women are subject to physical and sexual violence worldwide at appalling rates. According to RAINN, 1 out of 6 American women has experienced rape or attempted rape in her lifetime—17.7 million American women in total. 90% of rape victims are female, and 98% of their rapists will never be incarcerated. Young women enrolled in college are 3 times more likely to be victims of sexual violence than the general population. In the United States, a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds. The most common victims of domestic abuse are women aged 18-24. 1 in 5 women have experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner: a higher rate than men. 94% of victims in murder-suicides involving an intimate partner are female. For women, the leading cause of death from workplace injuries is simply being murdered.

Although women have made incredible advances in social status and overcome many disadvantages, our society is not an equal one—yet. University women’s centers, like ours, exist as a resource in addressing the specific challenges university women face. We are also a resource for the continuing, intersectional fight against oppression in all its forms. We educate the Northwestern community by bringing awareness to issues important to people of all genders and by amplifying the voices of those speaking up about them. We are a hub for social progress and promote furthering equality. We know disadvantage experienced by even one woman affects everyone. We are here to level the playing field, both for Northwestern women and women everywhere.

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