"Our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts."
Just two days ago, President Obama chose to include these words in his second inaugural address - a rousing speech that laid out a clear vision for an equal and just America. And now, with the introduction of the Paycheck Fairness Act today, members of Congress have an opportunity to take a step toward making that vision a reality.
Despite historic advances for women in past decades, America's working women are still paid just 77 cents for every dollar paid to men, resulting in more than $11,000 in lost income each year. For African American women and Latinas, who are paid just 70 and 60 cents, respectively, for every dollar paid to men, the financial impact of the wage gap is even worse.
Just last month, the National Partnership analyzed the impact of this gap on families' ability to make ends meet. We found that, in just one year, eliminating the wage gap would mean African American women would have enough money for more than two years' worth of food or more than three years' worth of family health insurance premiums. Latinas would have enough for nearly two years of rent or an additional 5,743 gallons of gas.
Losses of this magnitude are harmful for any working family, but they are especially painful for the nearly 40 percent of households headed by African American women or Latinas who live in poverty.
An America where hardworking women do not get a fair shake and instead face discrimination in the workplace is not what our families need and deserve. And it's not the America that Congress had in mind 50 years ago when it sought to address the harm caused by unfair pay practices by passing the Equal Pay Act.
Fortunately, this Congress has the chance to do something about it. It can advance the nation's legacy of fairness and equal opportunity by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act - a bill that would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act, help to break patterns of wage discrimination, and establish stronger workplace protections for women.
The Paycheck Fairness Act is a critical step forward for women, families and the nation. For Congress, there should be no option but to pass it right away.