More than a few years ago, Congress designated Aug. 26 as “Women’s Equality Day” to commemorate the passage of the 19th Amendment of the Constitution, which granted women the right to vote.
The “Women’s Equality Day” act from Congress was passed in 1971, 44 years ago, and the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, 95 years ago.
Are women equal yet?
Are women in Arizona truly equal when they make 16 cents less per hour than men make?
Are women truly equal in Arizona when many of our elected officials are more interested in denying women access to reproductive health care than they are in promoting access to good paying jobs?
Are women truly equal when two-thirds of Arizona’s low-wage workers are women, even though women make up only 45 percent of our state’s workforce?
Arizona needs to do better and, luckily, there are a set of things that the legislature can do next year to show they are truly committed to gender equality in Arizona:
- We should update our workplace standards to accommodate working parents. If Arizona wants a 21st century economy, it needs to update its 1950s-era workplace policies. Today, 80 percent of working women are supporting at least one child. We need policies that enable women to work and take care of their families like earned sick time, paid family leave and flexible scheduling.
- We need to invest more money into taking care of our seniors so that caregivers aren’t punished for taking care of their family members. About 20 percent of working women will provide at least part-time care to an elderly or disabled family member or friend and many of them sacrifice significant earning potential and retirement benefits to do so. In fact, according to the AARP, female caregivers lose $40,000 more in wages and Social Security benefits than male caregivers do.
- We need to invest resources into childcare for working families. Women who want to work and support their families shouldn’t be denied the opportunity to do so by the exorbitant cost of childcare.
- We must stop attacking health care providers. Working women depend on Planned Parenthood and other providers of reproductive health care for safe, reliable medical care. An attack on the providers of a woman’s health care is an attack on the woman herself.
The legislature can pass real policies that will improve the lives of every Arizonan and make real progress towards equality. But it won’t happen unless everybody, elected officials and voters, men and women, demand change.
Together, we must demand an end to narrow, partisan agendas.
We must stand together in favor of the policies that will improve the lives of women and their families. We must stand together and hold accountable those elected officials that are standing in the way of progress for women in Arizona.
If, as a state, we are ever going to achieve gender equality, for every woman and every girl, we have to create better jobs, raise wages, protect access to reproductive healthcare, fully fund senior and childcare, and make sure parents can get enough time off to care for their families.
In order to have that happen, voters need to ask their elected officials one simple question:
Are you standing with women or are you standing in the way?
Sen. Katie Hobbs
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