Women and the Workforce, a Labor Day Reflection

by Sara Manzano-Diaz on August 26, 2010 · 0 comments

On June 3 the Department of Labor's Women's Bureau celebrated its 90th Anniversary and presented First Lady Michelle Obama, the quintessential working woman, with a commemorative poster and pin.

It has been more than 100 years since our nation celebrated the first Labor Day. And since that time work has changed, but more importantly, so has the makeup of our workforce.  Nearly fifty percent of American workers are women. In many households nationwide, women are sharing the role of breadwinner and in some cases they are the sole provider. Yet, with all the strides women have made in the labor force, one thing has remained unchanged—workplace inequalities.

On average a woman earns 83 cents for every dollar earned by a man—and for women of color and with disabilities, the gap is even greater. In addition to unequal pay, many women still remain concentrated in traditionally lower-paying jobs despite the fact that women hold the majority of post-secondary degrees in this country.  I have no doubt that our nation’s economic prosperity is dependant upon resolving these injustices.

However, I am proud to say that in its 90 year history the Women’s Bureau has a proven record of breaking down barriers standing in the way of equitable workplaces. And as Director of the Women’s Bureau I plan to continue this legacy with my vision to empower working women to achieve economic security during their lifespan and into retirement. To achieve this goal we are currently focusing the agency’s efforts on four priority areas: equal pay, workplace flexibility, higher-paying jobs for women, and supporting homeless women veterans.

But this is not enough. To ensure that all working women have the fair working environments they deserve it will take more than the efforts of one federal agency. This Labor Day, I ask that all employers make a commitment to eliminate inequitable policies and other obstacles standing in the way of women’s rights to fair labor standards.

Sara Manzano-Diaz is the Director of the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau.

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