President Clinton and senior administration officials meet with Dorothy Height and Maya Angelou

A legacy of inclusion and opportunity

Celebrating record advances for women during the Clinton administration

By Stephanie S. Streett, Executive Director of the Clinton Foundation

Equality for girls and women in the United States and around the world has been a complicated journey, but one that has been punctuated with peaks of progress. During the Clinton administration, the United States experienced advancements in economic and businesses opportunities available to girls and women due to federal policies, realized expansions to their health care coverage and safety, and witnessed some of the most pro-woman initiatives of any previous administration.

As a woman, a wife and a mother, and executive director of the Clinton Foundation, I couldn’t be more proud of the initiatives that President Bill Clinton and then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton have championed on behalf of girls and women. As a former White House staffer, I am proud that the Clinton administration appointed record numbers of women to senior positions — women made up 44 percent of Clinton administration appointees, including 30 percent of judicial nominees. The eight years of the Clinton administration saw record advances for women in the workforce as well—between 1993 and 2000, 8.5 million women joined the labor force while real median earnings for women rose; the amount of women business owners increased from 6.4 million in 1992 to 7.45 million just five years later.

March is Women’s History Month and it’s an important time to reflect on where we’ve come as a society — in respect to the rights of girls and women — and all the work that remains before us.

Below are eight photos featuring important milestones for women from the Clinton administration.

Guaranteeing leave for families

President Clinton knew the impact that federal policies could have on Americans from all walks of life, especially women. The first law enacted during the Clinton administration was the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which recognized how family commitments and leave policies could drive pay discrimination. This law marked the first time family and medical leave — with guaranteed job security — was approved by the federal government. This meant that employees were now authorized up to 12 weeks leave following the birth or adoption of a child or to take care of themselves or another immediate family member.

A global declaration: “Human rights are women’s rights”

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton worked tirelessly on behalf of girls and women. To underscore the fact that equal rights for women was not only a domestic issue but an international issue as well, she addressed the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, stating: “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.”

The nation’s first female U.S. Secretary of State

In December 1996, President Clinton nominated Madeleine Albright as Secretary of State. She was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate in January 1997, and became the first woman to hold the position. Secretary Albright along with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton established the Vital Voices Democracy Initiative, which promoted the U.S. government’s foreign policy objectives around the world.

Swearing in the second female U.S. Supreme Court Justice

President Clinton appointed Ruth Bader Ginsberg to the U.S. Supreme Court, the second woman to serve as a Supreme Court Justice.

Appointing the first female U.S. Attorney General

President Clinton appointed Janet Reno to serve as Attorney General, the first woman ever to serve in that position.

Preventing violence against women

In 1994, the Clinton administration enacted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), greatly reducing domestic violence against women and making their safety a priority. Domestic violence dropped by nearly half in the eight years between 1993 and 2001. In 2000, President Clinton signed legislation reauthorizing VAWA through 2005.

Championing women’s health

President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton championed legislation to improve women’s health and safety. The Funding for breast cancer and cervical cancer research, prevention, and treatment more than doubled during the Clinton administration. Federally sponsored screening programs provided new treatment options to low-income and uninsured women. Funding for domestic and international family planning programs was increased, and the country saw a 20 percent decrease in teen pregnancy rates.

Supporting families looking to adopt

The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 and the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 were two of several pieces of legislation enacted during the Clinton administration to increase adoption rates and put more children in safe, caring homes. Al Hunt of The Wall Street Journal called President Clinton the “most pro-adoption President in history.”

(Photos courtesy of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library)

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