The 4 Women's Social Issues That Defined 2015

This year has been incredible for women. But, let's face it, the scales of justice are still markedly uneven.

Luckily for women, several social and judicial efforts have been made this year to move women beyond the obstacles they face.

Be it new legislation or fairer opportunities in professional positions, women are starting to see some progress.

New mothers aren't guaranteed paid maternity leave.

The rundown: Currently, the US remains virtually the only country that doesn't mandate time off for new mothers.

Instead of relishing in the joy of having a newborn baby, mothers are practically leaving their hospital beds and heading straight to the office.

Sharon Lerner's investigative article "The Real War on Families: Why The U.S. Needs Paid Leave Now" found that one in four mothers go back to work after only two weeks of paid maternity leave.

Why are mothers in such a rush? It's because financial strain outweighs their desire to stay at home.

Although the Family and Maternity Leave Act allows most working moms up to 12 weeks of leave during a 12-month period, there are restrictions.

First off, the leave is unpaid.

To have eligibility, a woman must have worked for her employer at least 12 months prior to applying for time off. She also needs to work for a company that employs at least 50 people, either at the work site or within a 75-mile radius of it.

Where we're at now: According to the National Partnership For Women and Families, only about 13 percent of US workers have access to any form of paid family leave through their employers.

US women are inadequately protected on this issue, especially considering CNN reports French women are guaranteed at least 16 weeks paid maternity leave.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton adamantly advocates for stronger paid family leave policies, saying it doesn't have the negative effect on businesses Republicans often claim it does.

Only four countries in the world turn a blind eye to paid maternity leave, and the US is still one of them.

Women are still getting paid less than their male counterparts.

The rundown: For years, the disparity between male and female earnings has been unjust.

In an impassioned essay published earlier this year, actress Jennifer Lawrence detailed her fear of "being difficult" in negotiating pay equal to that of her male costars.

Though she's a high earner , Lawrence is similar to the 60 percent of Millennial women who also accept salaries lower than they deserve.

Actresses Patricia Arquette and Viola Davis have used their Hollywood platforms to speak out against this issue, as well.

During her Oscars acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress in March, Arquette pleaded for women to have "wage equality once and for all."

Davis, on the other hand, specifically addressed the larger pay gap for women of color in her Emmy acceptance speech.

Where we're at now: According to White House statistics, women take home about 78 cents for every dollar earned by guys. Though it's narrowed slightly, the gender pay gap remains virtually unchanged.

The White House also reports African-American women earn 64 cents and Latina women earn 56 cents for every dollar earned by a white, non-Hispanic man.

There's no denying that women are largely held out of high-paying, high-ranking positions in male-centric companies. This is especially true for women in science and tech industries.

No matter what Kate Winslet says, a large number of women are still being affected by unfair wages.

Women are being more vocal about rape culture.

The rundown: It shouldn't require young women carrying mattresses around Columbia University in order for lawmakers to finally take action against rape culture. But, it did.

Emma Sulkowicz hefted a 50-pound mattress to her graduation ceremony to protest the administration’s refusal to expel her alleged rapist.

In July, provisions to the federal Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act were made. They forced schools to proactively confront sexual violence on campuses.

During the Bill Cosby sexual assault scandal this summer, 35 women reported over 40 years of alleged abuse from the star.

Their stories finally sparked real conversations about how women are left unprotected in cases of rape and sexual assault.

Where we're at now: Rape culture has become increasingly normalized with the help of hyper-sexual song lyrics. Even TV shows play a role, including rape scenes filmed for the HBO hit series "Game of Thrones."

The often-quoted "1-in-5" statistic about rape on college campuses was recently disputed. However, a report published by the Washington Post backed up that statistic after surveying female college students in the US.

Women's health issues are at the forefront of political matters.

The rundown: The GOP has been threatening to defund Planned Parenthood since the summer, potentially damaging millions of American women.

The nonprofit organization reportedly provides nearly three million people, mostly women, with preventive health services. That includes birth control, breast exams, pap smears, cervical cancer screenings, STI tests and subsequent treatment.

Though the legislation was cleared back in September, the bill will most likely be blocked by Democratic votes.

Where we're at now: On November 17, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards testified for four hours against an anti-abortion group who accused Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue.

So, what are the facts? Both fetal tissue research and abortion are still legal.