Women make up the majority of professional social workers. They experience biases inside and outside of the profession. The National Committee on Women’s Issues (NCOWI), an NASW Board-mandated committee, was established in 1975 to develop, review and monitor programs of NASW that significantly affect women’s issues. Because there are existing factors that still disparage and encumber women, NCOWI’s purpose is as important today as it was in its inception.
Jane Addams, known as the mother of social work, was the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She addressed societal issues specifically affecting women. Since Addams’ time, intimate partner violence, human trafficking, gender bias/oppression, reproductive justice and equal pay for equal work have all served as challenges for social workers advocating for and supporting women’s rights. Today, “women’s issues” are often limited to health and reproductive matters; however, almost every issue is a women’s issue that requires an intersectional gender lens, (see Social Work Speaks).
As long as structural sexism is used to perpetuate discrimination against women, the profession will need to provide the momentum for organized answers. Social workers are tasked to examine roles, equity and fairness not only in the profession, but within society and with the women they serve each day.