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When Women Succeed, America Succeeds

July 19, 2013

by Wendy Chun-Hoon

What do a small businesswoman from Iowa, a daughter caring for her father in Massachusetts, a mom with a four-year-old daughter plus a newly minted college degree and I all have in common?

We all gathered today on the steps of the U.S. Capitol with Leader Nancy Pelosi and other prominent Congresswomen  on the eve of the 165th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, to launch an Economic Agenda for Women and Families that’s about “how you get paid, how you can take a day off if you’re sick and how your kids are cared for while you’re working.” IMG_20130718_135040

This agenda is both a long-awaited response to overwhelming demand for policy to catch up to our lives and a beacon for women movement builders and voters.

One by one, speakers illustrated in concrete terms how our economy is stronger when women are paid equal wages for equal work, when women aren’t fired and don’t lose income when their child or aging parent is sick, and when women can focus on their job knowing their children are being cared for in a nurturing environment.

ReShonda Young, owner of Alpha Express and Alpha Services in Waterloo, Iowa, talked about how she changed company practice to pay women exactly what their male counterparts were being paid.  “I refuse to allow myself or other women workers to be paid less than the value that we bring to our company because of our gender,” she told the women leaders assembled under a blazing D.C. sun. “This is about the values I hold as a small businesswoman, how we attract and keep good employees, and how we build strong communities, stronger families, and stronger local economies.”

MomsRising member Sonja Darai recalled how grateful she was to have been protected by the job security provision under the Family & Medical Leave Act when her father broke his hip, but how “not everyone is so fortunate.” She urged Congress to reform the FMLA to extend job protection to all workers, including the 40 percent currently excluded, and ensure wage replacement during that leave.  “Making paid family medical leave a requirement for all workers would go a long way to relieve the stress so many families face during medical crises,” Sonja said.

From her perspective as a student working full-time while raising her daughter Mackenzie, Stephanie Brown shared how critical having reliable, affordable child care was to earning her degree and landing a good job.  “I would not have been able to receive my education, and the job I have now without…the quality of care my child received in the process.”

The most exciting part for me?  The recognition that these issues that are so bound together in the success of our families’ daily lives – pay, paid leave and child care – are finally bound together in a powerful public policy agenda critical to our country’s economic success.  That and the chant of the crowd:  When Women Succeed, America Succeeds!

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