Our country is based on the ideal of equality for all its citizens. Yet, ask any woman today what obstacles she’s faced in her career or education simply because she’s a woman, and you’d hear a very different story.
It’s been illegal for employers to discriminate based on sex since the enactment of the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Despite that, women continue to earn less than men. A comparison of median salaries between men and women, and an often cited statistic, shows women earn 21% less than men. There are many factors responsible for this earnings gap. Among them are choosing lower paying career fields, leaving the workforce to care for children or parents, challenges with childcare, and, let’s face it, blatant discrimination.
This earnings gap doesn’t harm just women, but their families, communities, and our economy.
Four out of ten American families look to women as the sole breadwinners. That means when women earn less, families have less to spend on things like clothes, school supplies, groceries, and health care for children and dependent parents.
Multiplied over a full career, a woman earns approximately $430,000 less than a man throughout her lifetime. This affects how much she is able to save or pay into Social Security, making women much more likely to live in poverty as they get older. The National Institute on Retirement Security reports that women are 80% more likely than men to be impoverished at age 65 and older, a figure that increases with age.
With these facts, there’s no doubting women still face substantial barriers to getting ahead. That’s why we’re taking action.
Today, I am starting a working group along with my Republican colleagues that will take an in-depth look at the root causes for the challenges women face in the workforce. Labeled, the Working Group on Women in the 21st Century Workforce, the group will engage in a series of listening sessions around the country, meet with relevant organizations, think tanks, and scholars, and hold hearings and roundtables. The goal of the group is simple: to identify solutions for expanding opportunity and improving outcomes for women.
Too often, this issue is leaned upon simply to cultivate partisan talking points and political ads or simply ignored all together. For the new mother trying to balance work and a home life; the daughter wondering how she’s going to care for an ailing parent; the recent college graduate seeking to get her foot in the door; and the countless women and girls who have big dreams and high goals, this issue is so much more – and it deserves real solutions.
Our working group will focus on four key pillars related to women in the workforce: expanding opportunity; increasing flexibility; removing barriers; and empowering the next generation.
Congresswoman Katharine St. George, a Republican from New York and one of the first proponents of the Equal Rights Act who coined the phrase “equal pay for equal work”, famously said of her work: “I think women are quite capable of holding their own if they're given the opportunity. What I wanted them to have was the opportunity.”
Today, over fifty years later, we still have work to do. After all, this is America, where we pick the best man for the job, even if she’s a woman. It’s time we fulfilled that promise.
For more information about the working group and to follow its actions, visit mcsally.house.gov/WomensWorkingGroup
U.S. Representative Martha McSally (R) represents Arizona’s Second District in Congress. Before that, she served 26 years in the U.S Air Force and was the first woman to fly in combat and command a fighter squadron in combat. She is passionate about fighting for equal opportunity for women.
More from living