Business and Professional Women

Business and Professional Women/USA (BPW) is a nationwide political lobbying organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C., concerned with improving conditions for working women throughout the United States. The organization has more than 20,000 members and 1,300 chapters in all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.

Four major issues shape BPW's legislative agenda:
* elimination of sex discrimination in employment
* equal pay for women
* pursuit of a comprehensive equal rights amendment
* pursuit of work/life balance

The Business and Professional Women's Foundation is a research and educational institution that provides career advancement scholarships and support for women returning to the workplace. BPW Foundation houses The Rawalt Research Center (The Rawalt Online Resource Center), a clearinghouse for information focused on working women and families.

tatement of purpose

BPW/USA is a bipartisan organization that fosters the success of working women by providing career advancement resources, work/life strategies and personal and professional connections. Its mission is to achieve equity for all women in the workplace through advocacy, education and information. The stated mission of BPW Foundation is "to empower working women to achieve their full potential and to partner with employers to build successful workplaces". [ [] ]

Current issues

* Pay equity
* Violence against women
* Support for women veterans
* Contraceptive equity
* Family time flexible leave
* Equal Rights Amendment


BPW is structured as a federation, with a strong grassroots component. Local Organizations (LOs) [] lobby at the local, state, and national levels. They also hold meetings to educate the community on BPW issues.

State federations develop local organizations, coordinate statewide activities, provide resources to the LOs, and lobby at the state and national levels.

The National Organization coordinates national activities, implements policy as formulated by the annual National Convention, lobbies at the national level, and provides resources to the states.


While mobilizing for World War I, the U.S. Government recognized the need for a cohesive group to coordinate identification of women's available skills and experience. A Women's War Council, financed through a federal grant, was established by the War Department to organize the resources of professional women. It was guided principally by executives of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). The National Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs was founded on July 16, 1919. BPW/USA became the first organization created to focus on the issues of working women.

In the 1920s, the "BPW Goodwill Tour" of Europe initiated the founding of the International BPW Federation. With the theme, "Better Business Women for a Better Business World," National Business Women's Week was established to celebrate and dramatize the contribution of women to the country. BPW worked throughout the 1930s to prohibit legislation or directives denying jobs to married women and lobbied successfully to legislatively end the legal practice of workplace preference for unmarried persons and, in the case of married persons, preference for males. BPW/USA was one of the first women's organizations to endorse the Equal Rights Amendment in 1937.

At the advent of World War II, BPW developed a classification system for women with specialized skills critical to the war effort and supported the formation of women's branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. While wage discrimination has existed in the U.S. since women and minorities first entered the paid workforce, its prevalence was not felt until the massive influx of women sought work during World War II. Immediately following the war, the Women's Pay Act of 1945 - the first ever legislation to require equal pay - was introduced in the U.S. Congress. It was another 18 years before an equal pay bill made its way to the President's desk to be signed into law.

BPW Foundation was incorporated in 1956 as the first foundation dedicated to providing resources to and about working women. It included research, information, career development programs, scholarships to disadvantaged women, workshops and other training opportunities. The Marguerite Rawalt Resource Center opened, becoming a major resource on the history of women and women in the workplace. The establishment of "Status of Women" commissions in the U.S. in 1963 was due largely to BPW efforts. President John F. Kennedy recognized BPW's leading role in securing passage of the Equal Pay Act by giving BPW's National President the first pen he used when signing the Act into law.

Virginia Allan initiated the "Young Careerist" Program to develop the business and presentation skills of young women between 25-35 years of age. The first National Legislative Conference, held in 1963 in D.C., later developed into BPW's current Policy & Action Conference, where members lobby Congress and the Administration on BPW's legislative issues.

BPW intensified efforts to eliminate discrimination based on sex and marital status in credit, capital, and insurance practices. A legislative strategy was developed to achieve the Congressional votes needed and the BPW Political Action Committee (BPW/PAC) was formed in 1979 to endorse federal candidates.

BPW/USA hosts several signature programs, events and conferences in fulfillment of its mission including: Women Joining Forces, Young Careerist, Individual Development, WAGE Clubs, Equal Pay Day, National Business Women's Week, Policy & Action Conference and National Conference.

BPW tackled "comparable worth" by calling for newspapers to stop the occupational segregation in classified ads (clustering of women in a few restricted occupations of low-paying, dead-end jobs). Numerous state and municipal governments revamped their pay scales, recognizing dissimilar jobs may not be identical, but may be composed of tasks, educational requirements, experience and other characteristics that are equivalent or comparable. In 1986, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to approve a pay equity referendum, implementing $34 million in increases for employees in female and minority-dominated jobs. Continuing with BPW's focus on workplace issues, BPW lobbied Congress for passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which finally passed in 1993. Discussions on comparable worth were expanded to include enforcement and strengthening of existing Equal Pay legislation. The Pay Equity Employment Act of 1994, followed by the Equal Pay Act (introduced in 1994) and the Paycheck Fairness Act (introduced in 1997) became BPW's focus legislation through the '90s. Then-Secretary of Labor, Elizabeth Dole, and First Lady Barbara Bush addressed BPW's members at the White House Briefing during the 1990 "Lobby Day" event. Subsequent speakers have included Senator Tom Harkin, First Lady (Senator) Hillary Rodham Clinton and Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro and Eleanor Holmes Norton.

In 2005, BPW used its grassroots power to continue the Bureau of Labor and Statistics' (BLS) Working Women Series and to re-instate Lifetime TV on the DISH Network programming.

Workplace equity issues including sexual harassment, opportunities for women veterans, work-life balance, health care reform, dependent care, tort reform, increasing the minimum wage, lifetime economic security and pay equity continue to be BPW's targeted issues.


External links

* [ Business and Professional Women/USA]
* [ DC State Federation of Business and Professional Women/USA]
* [ Business and Professional Women's Foundation]
* [ The Rawalt Online Resource Center]
* [ Promoting, Educating, & Connecting Business Women]
* [ Grant Thornton International Business Report women in business focus]
* [ National Women's Law Center - Paycheck Fairness Act] fact sheet
* []

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