The nominally “nonpartisan” National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) was established as a nonprofit entity in 1983. Since then, it has grown into a coalition of more than 200 member organizations that collaborate through “substantive policy work and grass roots activism” to advance left-wing agendas in various areas of concern to women.
Viewing the United States as a nation rife with sexism, NCWO aims to develop “a society free from the inequality, oppression, and discrimination that face women and girls from a variety of backgrounds and experiences.” To achieve these ends, the Council generally advocates an ever-increasing reliance on government programs to cover the costs of American women’s basic needs, and the imposition of higher taxes on medium and high income-earners to underwrite those programs. NCWO’s policy agendas fall broadly into 5 major categories:
I. Economic and Social Security: NCWO supports “economic security for all women”; “pay-equity legislation” that ensures “comparable pay for jobs of comparable worth”; affirmative action favoring women in college admissions and corporate hiring practices; the elimination of “occupational segregation that marginalizes women into low-paying jobs”; the promotion of a “living wage” as a baseline for all workers; “enhanced [government-funded] support to women entrepreneurs”; the expansion of welfare programs for purposes of “poverty reduction”; “strengthened Social Security and Retirement Security” (not to be achieved by any degree of privatization); a hike in Social Security taxation caps on high income earners; the assignment of economic value to unpaid caregiving by mothers, in the form of credits that would apply toward their Social Security benefits later in life; a mandate for paid family-leave and sick-leave benefits for part-time and temporary workers, who are disproportionately female; taxpayer-subsidized childcare, pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, after-school, and summer-care programs; “affordable housing” benefits for low-income women; and an expansion of the Food Stamp, WIC, and other supplemental food programs.
II. Education and Training: NCWO supports publicly financed “access to higher education and training throughout the lifespan”; increased funding for public education through a system of progressive taxation; strengthened Title IX protections for “non-discrimination on the basis of sex”; more federal support for the research and development of programs and activities that “increase gender equity”; greater efforts to increase the numbers of women in science, math, technology and other “nontraditional fields … that lead to high-wage, high-skill employment”; and expanded education and training programs for “welfare recipients and other low-wage workers, teens, single parents and displaced homemakers.”
III. Women’s Health: NCWO supports a government-run, universal healthcare system for all Americans; “universal access” to publicly funded “reproductive health services,” including contraceptives and abortion; comprehensive, “culturally appropriate” sex-education programs in the public schools; strengthened protection from “anti-choice terrorism” (i.e., violence against abortion clinics); and the “elimination of gender bias in research, treatment and access in the healthcare system.”
IV. Civil Rights: NCWO supports ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; “strengthened and accountable federal and regional offices charged with enforcing civil rights and equal opportunity in employment, health, labor, education and other areas”; judicial and political nominees who will protect “a woman’s right to reproductive choice”; affirmative action “to redress the inequities based on sex, race and economic status”; passage of legislation that prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation; “legal and economic parity” (including the recognition of gay marriage) for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered relationships; and the “removal of prejudicial policies related to immigration status.”
V. Federal Budget and Taxes: NCWO supports a progressive tax system that “raises adequate revenues to support the programs and services women and girls need”; tax reforms that would “ensure [that] the wealthiest Americans and corporations pay their fair share”; and tax reforms that would increase tax credits for low-income women and their families and “make the system more progressive.”
NCWO has established a number of Task Forces to hold strategy and policy discussions on the following topics: Younger Women, Domestic Priorities, Women’s Health, Global Issues, Corporate Accountability, Media and Technology, Older Women and Economic Security, and ERA (which is now focused on the new Women’s Equality Amendment).
For details on each of these Task Forces, click here.
NCWO’s chairwoman since November 2005 has been Susan Scanlan, who in 1977 helped found the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues and its policy arm, the Women’s Research & Education Institute. In 2000, President Bill Clinton appointed Scanlan to the Labor Department’s Advisory Committee on Employment and Training for Veterans.
Other noteworthy NCWO officials include secretary/treasurer Heidi Hartmann and steering committee member Vicki Saporta. Feminist icon Eleanor Smeal formerly served on the Council’s steering committee as well.
For additional information on NCWO, click here.
 Contrary to NCWO’s claims about wage discrimination against women, a large body of empirical research shows that male-female pay inequalities are due entirely to the employment choices that women make volitionally. When men and women work at jobs where their titles, responsibilities, qualifications, and levels of experience are equivalent, their pay is equal as well.