Deborah J. Vagins

Deborah J. Vagins

Senior Vice President, Public Policy & Research

Deborah J. Vagins is the senior vice president of public policy and research at AAUW. Ms. Vagins has built her career as a leading voice in civil, women’s, and human rights advocacy. At AAUW, Ms. Vagins leads the government relations, legal advocacy, and research departments to advance the organization’s vision at the local, state, and federal levels. In this role, Ms. Vagins develops strategic campaigns through advocacy, case law development, and research to reshape a public policy agenda and to marshal broad support for gender equity initiatives.

Before joining AAUW, Ms. Vagins was the chief of staff and principal attorney advisor at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for Commissioner Charlotte A. Burrows. Ms. Vagins rendered legal interpretations regarding Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other laws governing equal employment opportunity. She served as an agency representative on the White House Council for Women and Girls and the White House Equal Pay Task Force.

Prior to joining the EEOC in 2015, Ms. Vagins was the senior legislative counsel on civil rights issues for the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office, where she led national campaigns on federal legislative and executive branch actions on women’s rights, racial justice issues, and voting rights, among others. At the ACLU, Ms. Vagins was instrumental in advocating for major civil rights laws, including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 and the 2006 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. She also served as a cochair of the Paycheck Fairness Act coalition alongside AAUW.

Earlier in her career, she was the acting deputy general counsel and senior attorney advisor at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and an associate at Cohen Milstein, where she represented Betty Dukes and the more than 1.5 million women of Walmart in the largest Title VII pay and promotion discrimination class action in history.

Ms. Vagins graduated magna cum laude from the Washington College of Law at American University. She received her bachelor’s degree with distinction from Swarthmore College. Ms. Vagins’ work has been featured by the New York Times, USA Today, C-SPAN, Time, U.S. News and World Report, the Washington Post, Associated Press, CQ, NPR, The Hill, Huffington Post, and others. 

Letters and Testimony

AAUW Testimony to DC Council on the Sexual Misconduct Sunshine Amendment Act of 2018 (10/4/18)

AAUW Comments to Department of Health and Human Services on Proposed Changes to the Title X Family Planning Program (7/31/18)

AAUW Letter Urging Representatives to Cosponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 1869), the Pay Equity for All Act (H.R. 2418), and the Fair Pay Act (H.R. 2095) (7/26/18)

AAUW testimony to the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions in response to the hearing on the Workflex in the 21st Century Act (H.R. 4219) (7/23/18)

Work by Deborah J. Vagins

Jennifer J. Freyd

Freyd v. University of Oregon

Professor Jennifer J. Freyd, a respected senior faculty member in the University of Oregon’s Psychology Department, is paid significantly less than many of her male colleagues of equal rank as a result of “retention raises,” or salary increases given in the face of a competing offer. In this case, Professor Freyd has taken action against the University, contending that the University’s practice of granting such raises without equalizing salaries of other faculty of comparable merit has a disparate impact on women and violates the Equal Pay Act, Title VII, Title IX and Oregon’s sex discrimination law. Read more »

Resource   |   October 08, 2019

The Gender Pay Gap in 25 Metro Areas

No matter how you break down the gender pay gap numbers — by state, age, education, race, or occupation — the gap is substantial. And cities are not immune to this pervasive problem, as our new analysis shows. Read more »

Article   |   Economic Security   |   October 03, 2019

Native Women’s Equal Pay Day: Learn the Facts

September 23, 2019, marks the day that the wages of American Indian and Alaska Native women catch up to the money white men were paid in 2018. Read more »

Article   |   Economic Security   |   September 09, 2019

AAUW Issues: The Paycheck Fairness Act

The American Association of University Women believes that pay equity and equal opportunity are matters of simple fairness. Learn more about why we need the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 270/H.R. […] Read more »

Resource   |   March 22, 2019
scales of justice

A Victory for Equal Pay

  Litigation Update 5/3/19: Late last month, the federal district court in the District of Columbia ordered the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to comply with the court’s March 4, […] Read more »

Women holding protest signs on Capitol Hill, including "Women's voices for women's choices" and "Be bold for change."

Washington Watch

Take a look back at AAUW’s 2018 policy achievements as we anticipate our advocacy needs for the new year. Read more »

Article   |   Advocacy   |   December 20, 2018
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

The Attack on Title IX

The U.S. Department of Education is working to systematically dismantle Title IX protections. Read more »

Article   |   Education & Training   |   November 15, 2018
A woman at the 2018 Women’s March in Phoenix, Arizona, wear an American flag over her back and shoulders. Photo taken from behind the woman.

Analysis: What the 2018 Midterm Results Mean for Women

The midterm elections ushered in changes at all levels of government, but the dominant story of this election is the power of women. Read more »

Blog   |   Advocacy   |   1 Comments   |   November 13, 2018
AAUW staff stand behind former President Barack Obama on the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act

The Equal Pay Act at 55: Looking Back and Looking Forward

Tired of waiting for equality in your pay envelope? Let’s give the Equal Pay Act something it really needs on its 55th birthday: an update. Read more »

Blog   |   Economic Security   |   June 07, 2018
The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap research report cover (fall 2018)

Download the Quick Facts from The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap

This one-pager provides an easy and concise snapshot of some of the most salient points of AAUW’s report The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap. Read more »

Resource   |   September 28, 2017