By Kaitlin Leskovac, WLP Summer Intern
Last Friday, a group of congresswomen gathered on the steps of the Capitol to announce a new economic agenda titled “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds.” The agenda addresses three areas of continued inequality and obstacles for women in the workforce: equal pay, work and family balance, and childcare.
Equal Pay: Women still make only 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. This past April 9 was deemed Equal Pay Day, a date that marks how far into 2013 women had to work to earn what men earned in 2012. We cannot stand for this date to continue to be some sort of anniversary. To address the persistent wage gap between male and female workers, our congresswomen and congressmen proffer seven solutions. The agenda calls for an increase in minimum wage; investment in job training and education opportunities for women; support for women entrepreneurs and small business owners; and adequate tools to investigate wage discrimination. In addition, the agenda calls for the protection and restoration of employment rights, including those associated with paycheck fairness and pregnant workers fairness. This agenda furthers the call to action initiated by the Equal Pay Today! Campaign, launched June 10, 2013 by fifteen national and state-based women’s rights legal organizations, including the Women’s Law Project, on the 50th Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act of 1963.
To read more about the agenda for equal pay, click here.
To read more about the Equal Pay Today! Campaign, click here.
Work & Family Balance: The U.S. currently has no policy to ensure paid sick days and has no mandatory paid family leave policy. Current policy does not suit the structure of women’s lives, which in most cases involve the majority of childrearing, caretaking and household responsibilities. The new economic agenda calls for the address of current policy deficiencies, including provisions for paid sick leave; paid family and medical leave; and paid parental leave for federal employees. Ensuring work and family balance for working women is an economic imperative, given that women are now the breadwinners in 40% of households with children under age 18.
To read more about the agenda for work/family balance, click here.
Childcare: In the U.S., there is a drastic lack of high quality and affordable childcare. It is incredible that the U.S. currently ranks 28th out of 38 countries in the share of four year-olds enrolled in preschool. This is unacceptable considering high quality child care and early learning programs are imperative if the U.S. is to maintain educational benchmarks comparable to other developed nations. Adequate funding of childcare programs, improved training and pay for childcare workers, and expansion of the 2009 Child Care Tax Credit are just some of the actions called for in the When Women Succeed, America Succeeds agenda. President Obama’s Preschool for All and Early Learning initiatives, announced earlier this year, will also be crucial for efforts to raise the standard for childcare in the U.S. Women’s gains in the workplace and the promise of additional gains in the future must be supported by a commitment to providing accessible and high quality childcare.
To read about the agenda for childcare in full, click here.
Unfortunately, many predict that the agenda is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled House. However, we can no longer afford to neglect the economic rights of women. Women have a right to equal pay for equal work, plain and simple. Furthermore, the persistent institutionalized sexism in many work environments is based in part on gender role stereotypes that label women as caregivers. As a result of policy loopholes and inadequacies, talented women are deprived opportunities to participate in the workplace on equal footing with men. When Women Succeed, America Succeeds is a productive step in outlining the connections between women’s economic status and the greater well-being of our children and the nation as a whole. Our state and national representatives must value women’s vital social and economic contributions and support policy that furthers gender equality.