As an independent New York woman, I benefit every day from the previous generation’s fight for gender equality. When I vote or apply for a job, I am guaranteed equal protection under the law. Because of these tremendous successes, most young women like myself can’t remember a time when we were considered less than equal. American women have achieved historic progress in the fight for equality, reaching heights our mothers and grandmothers only dreamed of.
Today, women make up almost half the workforce and a majority of students in our colleges, universities and graduate schools. As the bulk of the actively voting public, we also wield a tremendous amount of political power. But too many inequalities remain— most notably when it comes to equal pay. Despite the landmark Equal Pay Act of 1963, over the last 50 years women’s salaries have remained below those of men in similar types of employment. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2010 women earned 33 percent less than men working full time, year-round.
With mothers serving as the primary or co-breadwinners in more than 60 percent of American households, “equal pay” isn’t just a women’s issue, it’s a family issue. When women bring home less money than their work is worth, it’s less money to put toward paying bills, to put aside for the future, or to invest in their families and communities.
When women aren’t paid fairly, it hurts the pocketbooks and economic security of working families, in addition to undermining the core values of fairness, equality and opportunity that are at the heart of our society. That’s why the first bill President Obama signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which closes loopholes and tightens rules regarding equal pay, making all women—including future generations—a top priority.
If you want to help continue the fight for equality for women, a great place to do it is with the Obama 2012 campaign here in New York. Watch this video of Lilly Ledbetter below, and then check out what we’re up to by finding an event near you.