March marks the 21st annual National Womenís History Month. Throughout the month, the history of American women will be highlighted in schools, workplaces and communities across the country. National Womenís History Month began in 1987 when Congress expanded the national dedication from a week to a month. Learning more about womenís history helps to reaffirm the deep impact women have had on our nationís history.
Although there has been much progress made to level the playing field between men and women, we continue the fight toward true equality. Thatís why I supported legislation providing equal pay for women.
Our nation passed the Equal Pay Act 44 years ago, but there is still work to be done. According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, in 1963 women who worked full-time, year-round, made 59 cents on average for every dollar earned by men. In 2005, women earned 77 cents to the dollar. That means that the wage gap has narrowed by a less than half a cent per year. We must do better to ensure women make the same amount of money for doing the same work.
This yearís equal pay package, which passed the Assembly last week, prohibits discrimination based on gender, makes it easier to enforce equal pay regulations and establishes a state policy of setting salaries based on comparable work. The legislation includes the New York State Fair Pay Act, which I co-sponsored and which amends current law to address and enforce pay equity (A.2712).
I also co-sponsored legislation promoting equality among minority- and women-owned businesses. This bill establishes a mentorship program, and implements other measures addressing past injustices that have precluded true equality among businesses owned by women and minorities (A.4498).
Womenís History Month is a reminder of womenís contributions to society and helps us focus on the ever-present struggles women face for parity at work and in our culture. I will continue my work to help level that playing field.