WASHINGTON--There is nothing more wholesome than the participation of women in the political process. When women gain in numbers in elected representation, when more women engage in the political process, women gain in influence--and that means greater advancement for America's women and families.
As we mark the 90th anniversary of a woman's right to vote–and Equality Day–we should be celebrating this right to vote. While you may not be casting votes in Congress, you can cast a vote in national, state and local elections. And the more women that participate, the more progress for many people in our country.
In the 111th Congress, we have seen gains for U.S. women. One needs to look no further than the new health care reform law, which will take its place in the history books next to Social Security and Medicare. It is delivering real change for American families.
With this legislation, we will insure 32 million more people, end insurance company discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and close the Medicare "donut hole"--a gap in coverage for the prescription drug benefit--for seniors. In addition to creating more than 4 million jobs, this new law is particularly significant for women and children as it ends higher insurance rates based on gender and includes maternity care as an essential service.
Now being a woman is no longer a pre-existing medical condition!
In short, the law establishes that health care for all Americans is a right, not a privilege. As the law is implemented, the new reforms will provide great comfort to women, often the decision-makers in family health care.
A First in Our Nation's History
Women are also making up a greater percentage of the work force. For the first time in our nation's history, women make up half of all U.S. workers, according to "The Shriver Report: A Woman's Nation Changes Everything," released in 2009. Mothers are now the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of American families.
In these challenging economic times, we must continue to create good paying jobs here in the United States. To that end, this Congress passed a recovery package that has begun to turn our economy around, saving or creating 3.6 million jobs. We are enacting President Obama's economic blueprint for the future, which will reduce the deficit, lower taxes for the middle class and create jobs around three pillars: investments in education and innovation, investments in energy security and investments in health care.
We need to stay focused on job creation and continue to empower the small business owners--many of whom are women--on Main Street. We also need to create opportunities for our daughters to become the innovators and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
Fighting for Fairness and Equality
We continue to fight for fairness and equality for America's working women, which is even more critical now as many families find themselves relying solely on the mother's paycheck. The Lilly Ledbetter law, the first bill President Obama signed when he took office, gives women the tools to fight pay discrimination in the workplace.
But we still have not achieved equal pay. Women earn 77 cents to every dollar earned by a man. The House passed Rep. Rosa DeLauro's, D-Conn., Paycheck Fairness Act to right this injustice and we must urge the Senate to do the same.
Social Security which matters most to women, will always be protected. We will fight against continued efforts to privatize this bedrock promise to America's seniors.
It has long been clear that the missing link for women at all income levels to succeed in their jobs is the availability of quality, affordable child care. We must guarantee an economy and a society that supports the motto: "families earning, children learning."
We stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us. Let us remember the fierce determination of the women who won for us the right to vote, the right to engage in the political process. Let us honor their sacrifice by engaging in the political process and embracing your right to vote.
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Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. For more information, please visit www.speaker.gov.
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