Women made a difference this election. Issues like fair pay received attention nationally and at the state level like never before. Women at all levels broke barriers. And a record number of women were elected to Congress. The results of this historic election represent great progress for women, and they have also created a great opportunity: a chance to move forward with real, concrete solutions to the challenges women and their families grapple with every day.
Challenges like unfair pay. Women who are employed full time in the United States are still being paid just 77 cents for every dollar paid to men, amounting to more than $11,000 in lost income each year. During many campaigns this election, elected officials and candidates talked about what this wage gap means for women and families. Now, it’s time to act.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first piece of legislation signed by President Obama in 2009. It helps women fight back when they are paid less than men, restoring the law and its protections after a damaging U.S. Supreme Court decision. But it’s not enough. The Paycheck Fairness Act is a much-needed next step that offers real solutions for closing the punishing wage gap that costs women and families so much.
The Department of Labor can also take concrete steps to promote fair pay. It can finalize a rule that would prohibit employers that contract with the federal government from engaging in discriminatory compensation practices – or using pay secrecy policies that perpetuate them. It can also finalize a rule that would help to ensure that home care workers get the same minimum wage and overtime protections that other workers enjoy. The department can – and should – prioritize these rules without delay.
Another all-too-common and increasing challenge for employed women is discrimination based on pregnancy. In fact, over the past decade, charges of pregnancy discrimination have risen by 35 percent. This election shined a light on the importance of women’s income to the financial security of families and our nation. It is simply appalling that women are being fired or forced out of the jobs simply because they are pregnant. Here, too, it’s time for action.
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is critical legislation that would help ensure that pregnant workers are not forced out of their jobs unnecessarily or denied reasonable job modifications that would allow them to continue working and supporting their families. It would promote the health and economic security of pregnant women, their babies and their families. And it should be a priority for any elected official who claims to value families and a strong economy.
So, as we celebrate a historic election for women, let’s also remember the urgent need to translate this energy and momentum into real progress. It’s time to move forward in promoting fairness for women in the workplace.