Skip to contentNational Women's Law Center

About the National Women's Law Center

The Center has worked for more than 40 years to expand, protect, and promote opportunity and advancement for women and girls at every stage of their lives — from education to employment to retirement security to health care and everything in between.

The Center's research, analysis, and advocacy take place when legislatures are enacting or amending laws, the executive branch and its agencies are writing regulations or otherwise enforcing laws and policies, and the courts are reviewing actions. The Center also conducts campaigns and public awareness efforts to educate and mobilize the public to press for policy changes to improve women's lives.

Today, the Center has an experienced staff of about 70 who identify and address the most important issues facing women and their families. Because of the Center's work, a woman in a downtown office building or an Army tank overseas has more protection against discrimination and more opportunity for advancement than ever before; a high school girl has many more chances to play sports and benefit from courses in math and science; a single mother is more likely to find and be able to afford child care so she can earn a living; and a woman is more likely to have health insurance for the services she needs, like birth control and maternity care. The areas the Center focuses on are described in more detail below, and staff with specific expertise are listed for each issue.

To download this page as a PDF, click the link below

Child Care

The child care needs of American families have increased sharply as women with children continue to enter the paid workforce in growing numbers and as recognition grows about the importance of high-quality early learning experiences to help parents work and to help children get a strong start so they can enter school ready to succeed. The Center works at the federal, state and local level to create and strengthen policies and increase investments that improve the quality, affordability, and accessibility of child care and early learning, especially as they affect low-income women and children.


Many students across the country do not receive an equal chance at a high-quality education that prepares them to be college- or career-ready. Young women of color, in particular, continue to be denied equal opportunities in many important educational programs, including postsecondary programs likely to lead to economic security for them and their families. The Center’s Education program fights for strong enforcement of Title IX and promotes programs that remove barriers to girls’ educational opportunities. The Center’s work includes advocating for changes that will improve graduation rates for girls and address the needs of young women who are most at risk of failing to meet their educational goals, including pregnant and parenting students; bringing groundbreaking lawsuits and undertaking other advocacy efforts to enforce Title IX’s promise of equal opportunity in education, including by leveling the playing field for girls in sports; ensuring that students have legal protections against sexual harassment and violence, and that girls of color are not unfairly disciplined based on gender and racial stereotypes; strengthening enforcement of anti-discrimination laws; fighting for strong affirmative action policies that take race and gender into account to remedy discrimination and promote diversity in education; and ensuring adequate funding for education at all levels.


Women continue to face significant limitations on their opportunities at work. The Center’s Employment program works to eliminate these barriers by fighting for equal opportunities and fair treatment for women in all aspects of their employment, with a particular focus on the needs of women in low-wage jobs. The Center’s work includes closing the wage gap and ensuring women are paid fairly; promoting efforts to ensure that pregnant workers who need reasonable accommodations on the job receive them; expanding opportunities for women in non-traditional fields and at the highest levels of their professions; improving the quality of jobs for women in low-wage occupations; encouraging fair work scheduling practices; prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; promoting the creation and preservation of valuable equal opportunity programs in the workplace; and improving opportunities for women in the military.  


The Center is fighting to guarantee accessible, comprehensive health coverage for women and families and to promote policies that advance and protect women’s health on the federal and state levels. Women have an enormous stake in our nation’s health care system.  During the new health care law’s first enrollment period, more than 4 million women enrolled in new Marketplace plans, with many others becoming newly-covered by Medicaid, but women’s health is still under attack. The Center’s work includes protecting and implementing key elements of the Affordable Care Act, including the non-discrimination provisions, the Medicaid expansion, insurance market reforms and insurance coverage improvements for women’s health care needs.  The Center’s work on coverage issues includes improving coverage for maternity care and preventive services, access to birth control, critical health screenings, and well-woman visits without copayments.  The Center works with state partners to ensure women benefit from the promise of the Affordable Care Act and to otherwise improve access to health care through policy analysis and public education.

Poverty and Income Supports

Women are at greater risk of poverty than men at all stages of their lives because of ongoing employment discrimination and greater responsibilities for unpaid caregiving. The Center works to strengthen income and work support programs for economically vulnerable women, including single mothers, women of color, and older women. Current Center efforts include protecting and improving family tax credits that can boost the earnings of low-wage workers and help parents meet child care and other expenses; strengthening child support enforcement, unemployment insurance, and other family support programs that help women escape poverty and make ends meet; and raising the minimum wage, including for tipped workers.

Reproductive Rights and Health

Access to comprehensive and affordable reproductive health care is an essential part of basic health care for women. The Center works to ensure that women have access to the full range of reproductive health services – including affordable contraceptive care and other preventive health services and abortion care – to help protect their health and improve their lives. In addition, the Center's work includes protecting women's access to reproductive health care from those who attempt to undermine it, including those who refuse to provide or cover it.

Social Security and Retirement

Achieving a secure retirement is especially challenging for women because they generally earn less over their lifetimes, reach retirement with fewer resources, and have to stretch those resources over longer lifespans. The Center works to protect and strengthen Social Security, the foundation of economic security for older women, and to improve women's access to employer-based retirement plans and other sources of retirement income.

Tax and Budget

The Center works for fair tax policies that raise the revenues needed to meet the nation’s shared priorities and protect and strengthen programs vital to women and their families.   The Center also works to protect and improve family tax credits that can boost the earnings of low-wage workers and help parents meet child care and other expenses and conducts an annual Tax Credits Outreach Campaign to help families get the tax assistance for which they qualify.  

The Courts

The Center seeks to secure women’s core legal rights, including the right to make personal decisions about their reproductive health, the right to equal opportunities in the workplace and schools, and a broad range of other legal protections that promote women’s well-being and safety. The vigor of these rights depends on the appointment of federal judges who recognize the fundamental legal principles that are critical to women and understand the law’s impact on people’s daily lives. The Center is leading the way in promoting a fair and independent judiciary, including by consulting broadly during the judicial nomination process, advocating for the nomination of diverse and well-qualified individuals to fill every vacant judicial seat, and supporting the swift consideration of judicial nominees by the Senate.  The Center also tracks the diversity of the federal bench, including by gender. The Center also enforces women’s hard-won legal rights under the Constitution and federal statutes, through advocacy in the Supreme Court and the lower courts, and undertakes public education about the scope and significance of these legal protections and the need to advance them.  

  • Emily Martin, Vice President and General Counsel
  • Amy Matsui, Senior Counsel and Director of Women and the Courts

Women in the Military

Today, over 200,000 women serve in the U.S military. They continue to distinguish themselves, performing critical jobs both at home and in war zones, including in combat in the air, at sea, and on the ground. The Center advocates for a strong military in which all military assignments are open to qualified persons regardless of gender, women can serve without fear of sexual assault or harassment, and women have access to full reproductive health care.


The Center has been at the forefront of landmark legal and public policy initiatives to improve the lives of women, girls and families since 1972. For example, the Center was instrumental in passing laws to prohibit pregnancy discrimination in employment and to provide compensation for victims of sexual harassment. The Center improved state and federal tax laws to help millions of families pay for child and dependent care and secured new federal remedies for women seeking child support. The Center has also been a leader in enforcing Title IX, the 1972 federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, including athletics, since it was enacted. For more information on the Center's history of accomplishments, please view Expanding the Possibilities for Four DecadesExpanding the Possibilities for Thirty-Five Years, 2008 Accomplishments2009 Accomplishments, 2010 Accomplishments and 2011 Accomplishments.


Download as PDF: About the National Women's Law Center