In the News

Celebrating the Right to Vote and Your Business

This month we are celebrating 100 years of women’s votes in the United States. The ratification of the 19th Amendment was the result of women using influence innovation and courage to secure the right to vote. We are celebrating these women and their legacy with a look back at the Suffrage Movement and how it can inspire women business owners today, creating “Healthy Business” and a “Healthy You” for your employees.

For Women, By Women

The Suffrage Movement in America officially started at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. What followed was a decades-long campaign to win the hearts and minds of the American public and—more importantly—politicians. The 19th Amendment was narrowly passed in 1919 and finally added to the US Constitution on Aug. 26, 2020.

American suffragists were part of an international women’s rights movement that has its roots in the abolition movement and other social causes. Significant voices of Black abolitionists joined suffragists, but they were excluded from working with white women who would not secure their right to vote for another 45 years.

Suffragettes were also some of the first women business leaders in the United States. Although few owned businesses themselves, they used brand savvy, organizing and fundraising skills to power their movement. Many were wives of industrialists and were able to use their spheres of influence and wealth to power the movement. Some enterprising women even used the popularity of the movement to sell otherwise unrelated products like makeup.

As women business owners, we owe much to these early women’s rights activists. With the right to vote secured, women could finally seek public office and influence public policy. It also opened the doors to greater equality for women, including the right to own our businesses, equal pay and protections under the law.

Keeping the Legacy Alive

One way we can carry on suffragists’ legacy by supporting our employees in expressing their right to vote in local and national elections. Voting is one of the most important ways your employees can influence issues that impact their daily lives and jobs. Everything from traffic laws on their commute to legal issues regulations for their jobs are decided by elected officials and, sometimes, by direct votes on ballot measures.

Unfortunately, voter turnout in the United States of America has been historically low. Many people cite limited time to vote and the ability to get to polling places as barriers to voting. Iowa provides the right to time off to vote, but even employees who can vote outside of their scheduled shifts can find it hard to get to the polls. A lack of childcare, long lines at the precincts and multiple jobs can also get in the way of voting.

Many companies are finding that encouraging their employees to vote is good for business as well as their communities. Companies who engage in voter and civic education efforts have seen measurable positive returns in employee performance, brand loyalty and even business-centered interests.

Get out the vote experts recommend focusing on participation over politics. Here are just a few, simple ideas to increase civic engagement in your workspaces:

  • Provide education and resources to your employees to help them register to vote and exercise that right. Be sure to include information about absentee and early voting.
  • Offer information about a range of issues and candidates. This can be as simple as an information center with candidate literature. You can also host candidates or have weekly lunch and learns in the weeks leading up to an election.
  • Remind your employees on election day to vote.
  • Add voting days—including municipal, school and other days—to your company calendar.
  • Provide paid time off to vote. Better yet, make major voting days a half-day or full holiday. That way employees can also volunteer, watch children while a partner votes or help others get to the polls.

 

There is still work to be done, especially in addressing the disparities early suffragists often ignored or furthered. We can continue to honor the work done by early suffragists by working to ensure all people in the United States can express their values at the voting booth. And that can start with our own teams.