On Women’s Equality Day, There’s Still Work to Do

glass ceiling

The view from below the glass ceiling. Photo: k-ideas via Flickr Creative Commons

Today marks Women’s Equality Day – a national day of proclamation to commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

In Washington state, we often pride ourselves with a history of women’s equity. We gave women the right to vote in 1910, ten years before the 19th Amendment, and 2013 marked 100 years of women serving in the Washington State Legislature.

Despite a century of suffrage, women still face daunting barriers to equity. Women represent almost 60% of U.S. college students and are the majority of graduates with master’s and doctoral degrees. Yet, in 2013 – 50 years after the Equal Pay Act was signed by President John F. Kennedy – women still earn 77 cents for every man’s dollar, only twenty-one Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs and 20 women in the U.S. Senate is history-breaking.

Proclamation from Gov. Inslee on Women's Equality Day

Proclamation from Gov. Inslee on Women’s Equality Day

Washington state Governor Inslee issued a proclamation today declaring August 26th Women’s Equality Day in Washington state.

But Governor Inslee and his colleagues must go further to ensure real economic and social parity for women.  The Equal Pay Today! campaign provided Governor Inslee with concrete recommendations for immediate action on women’s equality. Governor Inslee and Washington lawmakers could:

  • Join states like Montana and Maryland in establishing a state commission (that includes a broad range of stakeholders) to evaluate how to close the gender wage gap in Washington and to develop recommendations and best practices.
  • Improve enforcement of the equal pay laws in Washington or join governors like Gov. Cuomo in New York, who created the Women’s Equality Agenda and submitted a comprehensive package of bills to the NY Legislature to close the gender wage gap.
  • Take executive action to improve the equal pay laws in Washington, especially among the state and local contractors who have the privilege of conducting business with this state.
  • Establish a state task force to better coordinate the data collection and enforcement of equal pay and other employment discrimination laws in Washington.

Working women also need programs like Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance as well as Paid Sick Days to ensure broad economic security. Today’s research shows that a driving force behind women’s economic equity is the anticipation of child birth. Paid leave programs like Family and Medical Leave Insurance and Paid Sick Days would better support Washington’s women and families while also generating savings for local businesses.

Women today are more educated than ever before yet wage gaps, workplace discrimination and glass ceilings still prevail.  In 2014, let’s work with Washington lawmakers to develop a comprehensive Women’s Economic Security Agenda and build toward a more equitable and just future for our daughters.

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