National Partnership for Women & Families

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From the desk of ... Debra L. Ness

Keeping the Dream of Full Equality Alive

August 26, 2011 | Workplace Fairness

It's Women's Equality Day - a commemoration of the 19th Amendment and women's steady march toward equality, a tribute to how far we have come, and a reminder of the work still to do.

Women have achieved much in the past 91 years. We hold positions of power throughout our government and society. We constitute half the workforce. We are the primary or co-breadwinners in six out of 10 families. And more women than men are attending college. These achievements - and many, many more - are a testament to the hard work of the leaders who came before us and all of us who work to keep the dream of full equality alive.

But today, it's clear that we're not yet there. In too many aspects of our lives, women's rights and equality still don't exist - or they are under attack.

In the workplace, women are still paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to men - an unacceptable wage gap that hurts women and their families nationwide. And, despite our equal numbers in the workforce, we are still vastly underrepresented in many well-paid occupations.

This is made worse by a failure to provide family friendly workplace policies. Women today bear the brunt of the burdens caused by a lack of paid sick days and paid leave standards in this country. As primary caregivers and co-breadwinners, when women can't take paid time off to recover from pregnancy or illness, or to care for a sick child, they have to make impossible choices between their families' health and a paycheck.

Outside of the workplace, our basic health and reproductive rights are under attack. Conservative lawmakers are determined to restrict access to abortion services. And efforts to repeal and defund health reform - the greatest advance for women's health in a generation - are relentless. These dangerous attacks threaten women's access to essential care and many of our hard-fought victories.

Women cannot afford these giant steps backward - and neither can our families. We have come a long way since the passage of the 19th Amendment, but there is still much to be done to achieve the dream of full equality. We must redouble our efforts, learn from past successes and continue the march.


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