March was celebrated as Women’s History Month. While women have made great strides in this country, there is still much that needs to be done to bring them on par with men in America, particularly in the area of equal pay for equal work.
It is neither fair nor prudent that we live in a society in which women earn approximately 80 percent of what men who are doing the exact same work are paid. In 2010, the last year for which data was compiled, the median income for a woman in America was $36,931 compared to $47,715 for their male counterparts.
This is simply unacceptable and must be changed.
The practice sends an appalling message to young women who are seeking professional careers. Are we saying to them that they are not as good as their male colleagues? As a society, are we suggesting to them that we place greater value on the work of men than we do on their work? This type of thinking is a relic of the past, and it must remain there.
When I was elected to Congress in 1992, I was the only female in the Texas Congressional delegation. In Washington, I became one of 48 women who were members of the House of Representatives. In the Senate, there were seven women.
Today, our numbers have increased, and women chair many of the committees in the House and Senate where much of the work in the Congress is accomplished. There are presently 20 female Senators and 82 women in the House.
Having women in positions of leadership has made a significant difference in the way that the Congress functions. For the most part, women are less aggressive, and approach issues and policy questions with less acerbity than their male counterparts.
Women have made significant strides in business. Some of our largest corporations such as General Motors and Facebook have women in very senior positions. Yet, our corporate boardrooms remain bastions of male dominance.
In his statement proclaiming Women’s History Month, President Obama stated that our nation’s history has been enhanced by the achievements of women. He wrote that women have, “led movements for social and economic justice, enriched our culture and charted bold directions in our foreign policy.”
Iconic women such as Dorothy Height, who led the National Council of Negro Women, Adelfa Callejo, who fought for minority rights in Dallas, Lindy Boggs, who served our country as a distinguished member of the U.S. House of Representatives and as an ambassador, and so many others, have left a legacy of greatness that must be followed and honored.
Our remembrances of these women and others of monumental acclaim that are no longer with us must strengthen our resolve for even greater achievement. Future generations of women must be able to build upon the foundations that will be left for them.
The work for change must continue as long as women are victims of domestic abuse, physical assault in the military and depressed wages. Yes, we must celebrate women, but we must remain cognizant that the struggle for gender equality must not cease.
U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson represents the 30th District of Texas in the U. S. House of Representatives.