Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo Celebrates 2013 National Women’s History Month
March, 2013 marks the 26th year our country celebrates National Women’s History Month. The story of Women’s History Month dates back to March 8, 1857, when female factory workers in New York City held a protest over working conditions. After the protest, the first International Women’s Day was observed in March of 1909, but it wasn’t until 1987, that Congress designated March as National Women’s History Month, establishing an official month of observance to recognize the past and present achievements of women in America, and what we hope to achieve in the future.
There have been significant victories for women over the decades—all hard-won. Last month, Congress passed legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, renewing a 20-year commitment to address and eradicate domestic violence from our homes, campuses, communities and tribal lands. Earlier this year came a groundbreaking decision from the Pentagon to revoke a 1994 rule that restricted women from combat roles in the military. Even though women have often been in combat, this decision has opened up hundreds of thousands of additional front-line jobs to them, allowing women to climb to the top. But we have unfinished business. Inequality remains for women in other facets of daily life, and I’m working hard to change that.
Today, women earn an average of 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. This costs women and their families up to $2 million over a woman’s career. With a record number of women in the workforce, wage discrimination is hurting the majority of American families both in terms of their economic security today and their retirement security tomorrow. If the United States adopts a policy of paycheck fairness, it will put $200 billion more into the economy every year. That comes out to about $137 for every white woman per pay check, and approximately $300 for every woman of color, who are doubly discriminated against. I’ve led a charge in Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to close loopholes that allow pay discrimination to continue. The bill requires employers to demonstrate that pay disparity is related to job-performance—not gender. It prohibits employer retaliation for sharing salary information with coworkers, and it strengthens remedies for pay discrimination by increasing compensation women can seek.
It seems unthinkable that in the 21st century our Constitution remains silent on equal rights for women. Since 1923, Members of Congress have called for an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution establishing, once and for all, total legal equality between women and men. In 1972, Congress passed this Amendment, but it failed to be ratified by the required number of state legislatures. I’m an original cosponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 113th Congress, a bill that would make equality between the sexes a constitutional right. Without an Equal Rights Amendment, women can still be denied the ability to seek justice in the face of discrimination, and laws can still be written to perpetuate gender classification.
The 2007 Census of Agriculture identified more than a million female farm operators, approximately 300,000 of whom are principal farm operators. This represents 14 percent of the 2.2 million farms in our country. But an estimated 43,000 female farmers have been discriminatorily denied more than $4.6 billion in loans and servicing from the Department of Agriculture (USDA), imperiling their livelihoods, their land, and discouraging future generations from considering this honorable profession. The women farmers affected deserve recompense, so I’ve fought for them. Through my efforts, the USDA was convinced to acknowledge their discrimination against women farmers and to create the Administrative Claims Program to compensate women who have been unjustifiably denied benefits. I continue to call for improvements to the claims process so that women who have been discriminated against are aware they can seek relief and the recompense they deserve.
As we celebrate National Women’s History Month, I’m mindful of all the women whose shoulders we stand on who paved the way for the achievements of women today. To them I say thank you. You’ve shown us that together we are a force for good for our communities and our country.
As always, I welcome your comments, so let me hear from you.
Anna G. Eshoo
Member of Congress