Deborah J. Vagins

Deborah J. Vagins

National Campaign Director & Director of Equal Pay Today

Area of expertise: Federal legislative and executive branch policy advocacy; gender and race discrimination in employment and education; economic justice; pay equity, paid leave, survivor justice; voting rights; criminal justice reform; nonprofit management

You should get to know her because:

  • Vagins’ is a leading expert in federal civil rights, economic justice, and survivor justice policy. Prior to joining ERA, she was the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), where she led the organization’s work to create a social, political, and economic environment in which domestic violence no longer exists. She helped craft NNEDV’s vision to identify emerging issues in the field in order to develop intersectional policy, economic justice, housing, and technology solutions to support survivors.
  • Deborah also served as the Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Research at the American Association of University Women where she led the public policy, legal advocacy, and research departments. In this role, she co-led the national Paycheck Fairness Act coalition and the organization’s fight against the Administration’s rollback of sexual assault and harassment protections in schools.
  • She also was a Chief of Staff and Principal Attorney Advisor at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission where she served as an agency liaison to the White House Equal Pay Task Force and helped develop the EEOC’s pay data collection initiative and new guidance on retaliation and pregnancy discrimination.
  • During her decade as a leading civil rights advocate at the ACLU, she was instrumental in advocating for the passage of major civil rights laws and executive branch actions, including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, the 2006 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act, and the Obama-era executive order banning retaliation for wage disclosure and ordering pay data collection. She co-lead the Paycheck Fairness Coalition, as well as other national coalitions focused on voter re-enfranchisement and the school to prison pipeline.
  • Earlier in her career she was an associate at Cohen Milstein, where she represented more than 1.5 million women from Wal-Mart in the largest Title VII employment discrimination class action in history.
  • In 2019, Deborah was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts for her outstanding achievements in civil and women’s rights.
  • Deborah frequently lectures and has made appearances on The TODAY Show, BBC News, Washington Post LIVE, and NBC Nightly News and been quote in Glamour, USA Today, the New Republic, The New York Times, C-SPAN, TIME, the Washington Post, AP, CQ, NPR, The Hill, Huffington Post, and others.
  • Read Deborah’s full bio.

Alumna of:

  • Deborah graduated magna cum laude from the Washington College of Law at American University in 1996, where she was an editor of the law review and the recipient of the Gillett-Mussey scholarship for her contributions in the field of gender equity. She received her B.A. with distinction from Swarthmore College in 1991.

Outside of Work:

  • Deb is a great lover of art and art history, traveling whenever she can to get to museums.
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