On this date in 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified, according women equal voting rights with men. Today we recognize August 26 as Women’s Equality Day – but in many ways, women in this nation still aren’t equal. As the Women’s Bureau and the Department of Labor work to create and expand opportunities for working women, we see Women’s Equality Day as a reminder of the work that remains to be done to achieve workplace equality and economic security for women in America. For example:
- Women’s pay should keep pace with their education attainment. Women today are outpacing men in educational attainment, yet still earning significantly less than men, which affects the lifelong economic security of women and their families. The Obama administration continues to work towards closing the pay gap through a variety of efforts, including its work with the Equal Pay Task Force.
- Address occupational segregation. Women today make up nearly half of the labor force, yet they continue to be overrepresented in low-paying jobs and underrepresented in many of the industries that pay more and feature stronger job growth, which contributes to the gender wage gap and impacts the economic security of women and their families. The new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act provides Secretary Perez an opportunity to review the current key elements of the federal workforce training and development system to evaluate how well offerings support the entrance of underrepresented groups, such as women, into higher-paying nontraditional occupations. And at President Obama’s direction, Vice President Biden has been working on a job-driven training initiative that contains provisions for helping women get the training they need to enter today’s in-demand jobs.
- Reform workplace policies to reflect the realities of today’s working families. Today, in most households with children, both parents work outside the home. Most workplaces, however, have not adapted to changing circumstances and fail to offer the kinds of benefits and supports, such as flexible work schedules, paid leave and access to quality and affordable child and elder care that make it possible for families to balance the demands of work and family. Recently the Women’s Bureau held a Summit on Working Families with the White House and the Center for American Progress to explore how we can strengthen today’s workplaces to better support today’s working families.
- Put an end to discrimination. Despite the enactment of important anti-discrimination laws, working women today still face pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based discrimination not experienced by their male counterparts to the same degree, if at all. The Women’s Bureau wants to ensure that pregnant workers and all other working women have the resources to help them both understand the workplace protections afforded to them under the law and know how to seek recourse when employers fail to recognize and honor those rights.
Women’s issues are workers’ issues. They’re family issues. And the more action we take towards equality, the stronger our workplaces, families and economy will be.