Putting a modern twist on a 100-year-old suffragist motto, Wendy Davis launched a new “online engagement initiative” called Deeds Not Words at Austin’s annual SXSW Interactive tech festival on Monday.
The former Texas state senator and 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate said her new venture is geared toward giving millennial women “toolkits” and a communication platform to make change in their communities.
Davis said she envisions a country where women no longer face barriers to economic equality and accessing health care, and she sees millennials playing a critical role in closing the gap between theoretical rights and reality.
“Through [Deeds Not Words], we will work to convene the 38 million millennial women in our country, to provide them with the tools that they need to transform their passion for women’s rights and progress” into action, she told a crowd of almost 100 festival-goers. “We’ll work together to identify and empower young women with the training that they need to advance issues that they care about.”
Davis singled out the gender wage gap — a major focus of her political career — noting that white women make 79 cents for every $1 white men make. Women of color experience an even more significant gap between their earnings and those of white men.
“It boggles the mind that equal pay for equal work has still yet to be fully realized in this country,” she said. “Too many of our sisters are working two or three jobs at once, and still are unable to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.”
Recalling the 2013 filibuster that shot her into the national spotlight and drew thousands of orange-clad abortion rights supporters to the Texas Capitol, Davis also highlighted continued attacks on reproductive health care at the state and national levels. And she linked reproductive health care access to economic equality, invoking the growing national reproductive justice movement led primarily by women of color.
Deeds Not Words, which Davis described as “a hub for a great deal of conversation, communication and a way for young people to get involved,” will also focus on campus sexual assault, paid family leave and affordable education.
“The cost of these barriers is real,” she said. “No society can flourish and call itself sustainable unless barriers are removed.”
To break down those barriers, said Davis, Deeds Not Words will create “toolkits that help with concrete action steps” that young women can use to effect change around the issues they care about.
“While I hope to be a partner, reaching and conquering the final frontiers of women’s equal rights must ultimately led by you,” she said, addressing the young women in the crowd. “I hope you will fight alongside each other regardless of your political perspective or stage in life and understand your shared stake in women’s advancement.”