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My Speech on Women and Work

Tomorrow I will be giving a speech about the state of working women. The event, which is sponsored by the National Women's Law Center, takes a look at both the progress we have made and what is left to be done to ensure women have equality in the workplace and our daily lives. Here are some excerpts in advance:

  • Even as we celebrate the advancement of women in work, the harsh reality is too many of us continue to struggle when we shouldn’t have to. Sheryl Sandberg asked us to “lean in.” But most working women are already leaning in so hard we are practically falling over. We are being forced to hang on, scrape by, and make do.
  • Today women serve as doctors, lawyers, soldiers, and astronauts. They run big corporations like Yahoo and Pepsi. They are police chiefs and umpires and electricians—jobs once reserved exclusively for men. In 2009, I had the honor of being elected the first woman Secretary-Treasurer in the history of the AFL-CIO. And there’s a pretty good chance a woman will be leading the free world in January 2017. No one can deny that progress has been made.
  • Women of color experience lower median weekly earnings, higher rates of poverty, and greater unemployment. While women overall make 79 cents on the dollar, black women and Hispanic women only make 63 cents and 54 cents, respectively. Yet the women’s movement—and yes, the labor movement—have been slow to address these issues. We cannot outsource this work to others. As feminists, we must stand up for all working women—regardless of their race and class.
  • We need to join together and speak out for good wages, great benefits, fair scheduling and equal pay for equal work. We need to demand paid sick leave, family leave, and child care. These things are accessible and available to us if we stand together for them.
  • If women can change Walmart, we change the world.
  • In the labor movement, we know that raising wages requires more than a higher wage. It’s also about paid time off and fair schedules so we can sustain healthy families. Later today, I will join progressive allies on Capitol Hill to highlight these issues at a forum hosted by Congressman Bobby Scott. Perhaps Paul Ryan—who has made work life balance a condition of his speakership—can use his gavel to give that right to all Americans.  

To join the conversation about women and work, follow #womensvoices.


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