Female lawmakers, officials call for more women at all levels of government to improve equity

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Female lawmakers on Wednesday called for more women in all levels of government to improve gender equity.

Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) and former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis stressed the importance of including women in leadership roles at The Hill’s The Century of the Woman summit.

“We have to be making sure that we’re really pushing forward on that progress to make sure that women have all the opportunities available to us in this society in our country,” Davids told The Hill’s Steve Clemons.

Solis added that gender equity “makes sure that we have to educate, not just women, but our male counterparts because they’re the ones that still dominate in many positions of power.”

Women hold just under 24 percent of the 535 seats in Congress. At the state level, women occupy almost 29 percent of the 311 elected positions for top posts.

While the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote 100 years ago and more women are holding public office than before, many women still face barriers inside and outside the workplace, such as unequal pay and sexual harassment.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price (R) both talked about the sacrifices women have to make if they decide to take on leadership positions.

“Many women are reluctant to step up because they don’t have the support at home that they need,” said Price. “I think we have to figure out how to provide more support for women who do want to serve in public office.”

“I try to advise young women that when they make these inevitable life trade-offs that they know they’re making them,” said Chao added. “What’s really sad is someone made choices without understanding that they were permanent choices.”

Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R), who later served as head of the Environmental Protection Agency during the George W. Bush administration, said the Democratic and Republican parties both need to increase their support of female candidates.

“The parties need to start not just recruiting women but supporting them,” she said at the event sponsored by Dove, Crown Coalition, Nokia and Philip Morris International. “They need to continue the support because women still don’t  have pay equity.”

According to 2018 census figures, women on average earn just 82 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act, called for equal pay so that women can be more self-sufficient.

“It’s critical to getting our women, who are one of the most economically insecure demographics in the country, on equal footing in order to be able to take care of themselves and their families,” she said.

Despite the challenges, many women have made groundbreaking political and social change, said Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.).

Sewell discussed the role African American women played in fighting for women’s rights and democracy in the United States, saying they were “instrumental to the suffragettes” and that the “backbone of the Democratic Party is African American women.”

Tags Elaine Chao Rosa DeLauro Sharice Davids Terri Sewell
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