LIVES OF WORKING WOMEN
Women have come a long way since they earned the right to vote, and there is so much more to be done to make life better for women and their families. Paid and unpaid, women have always done the vital work of caring for children, their own or others, nursing the sick and wounded, and forging the bonds that hold families together. Women still do all of those things, but today many women have opportunities for education, rewarding and well-compensated employment, and participation in politics and government that women in earlier times experienced only in their dreams. Many of us have rejoiced to see our daughters, granddaughters and friends moving into professions and positions of responsibility with a confidence that may have eluded us. Our sons and grandsons delight us too as they show an appreciation for women’s aspirations and a willingness to be a part of solutions. We can and should celebrate the advances women have made even as we continue to seek equal compensation for equal work and inclusion at the highest levels of management and government.
Our celebrations need to be tempered, however, by the recognition that too many women and children live in poverty; 35 percent of single women with children are poor, according to Legal Momentum. There are multiple issues that contribute to this intolerable problem. Among them are the lack of safety net programs that target the realities of women’s lives, segregation in low-paying work, violence and abuse, lack of affordable child care, and the gender wage gap. Let’s talk about the gender wage gap. Women make up two-thirds of the low-wage earners, that is, those who work in jobs that pay $10.50 per hour or less, according to National Women’s Law Center. If that statistic was no surprise, perhaps this is – four out of five women in this category have a high school diploma, and 43 percent have some college or a bachelor’s degree or higher. This includes women of color who constitute nearly one-half of the women who work for low wages. As important as education is in lifting families out of poverty, it does not alleviate many of the problems women face.
In this election year, it behooves us to think about all of the problems women and children, especially those living in poverty, face. Alleviation of poverty and inequality can only come through enlightened public policies at the state and federal level. Imagine for a moment what might be accomplished by legislatures where women are in the majority and determined to enact family-centered policies. For example, public policies supporting affordable child care could enable women across the financial spectrum to make fuller use of their talents and education. It could be expected to increase national productivity as more women could enter or remain in the workplace. Finally, our vulnerable children could receive the early education that research shows would enhance their development. We aren’t going to achieve that majority this year, but we can continue to educate young women to assume leadership roles in industry and government. And we can be thoughtful, informed voters ourselves!
Dr.Beverly J. Weiss
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The Paycheck Fairness Act will help secure equal pay for equal work for all Americans. But until that happens, each state will continue operating under antiquated regulations and piecemeal state and local laws to combat unequal pay. While some states do have stronger laws than other states, AAUW members will keep working to make the whole country a better place for women to live and work.