Economic Growth, Empowering Women, and Hillary in Africa
June 14, 2011
GROW OUR ECONOMY - PAY WOMEN WHAT THEY'RE WORTH!
You don't need to read a newsletter to know that America is in an economic squeeze: too few jobs being created, and wages lagging behind rising costs. We welcome news that Congress and the Obama administration are looking at ways to increase job growth. Meanwhile, here's an important idea to increase family income: The Paycheck Fairness Act, reintroduced in the Senate by Sen. Barbara Mikulski and in the House by Rep. Rosa DeLauro.
Why do we need Paycheck Fairness? Because pay secrecy is the biggest problem when it comes to achieving fair pay. The National Women's Law Center and the Institute for Women's Policy Research held a briefing on paycheck fairness on Capitol Hill last week. They pointed out that the widespread practice of prohibiting employees from sharing their wage information, and retaliating against those that do, doesn't guarantee unequal pay practices, but it certainly makes it a lot more likely!
Remember Lilly Ledbetter? She got unequal pay for more than twenty years, and didn't know it, because pay information at her plant was kept secret. The Paycheck Fairness Act can protect – and prevent – future Lilly Ledbetters. It:
- Prohibits punishment of employees who voluntarily share wage information; and requires gender-based data collection to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, enabling it to monitor unfair pay trends.
- Allows employees to point to wages for comparable jobs outside the specific workplace in order to cite evidence of pay discrimination.
- Strengthens compensation and punitive damages for victims of sex-based wage discrimination, applying the same level of support as discrimination based on race or ethnicity.
Fair pay is essential for families to thrive, especially in these hard economic times. In 2009, 1.5 million married couples with children relied exclusively on women's earnings at some point; this represents 6.7% of all married couples with children. Additionally, 6.34 million families are headed by working single mothers. Think of the effect that unfair wages have on children in those households. Fair pay is an issue for women, for children – and for every American family!
GROW NATIONAL ECONOMIES AROUND THE WORLD BY EXPANDING OPPORTUNITY
At our Expanding Opportunities Conference last month, cosponsored by the ILO and the Wilson Center, we focused on the economic benefits of ending discrimination in the global workplace. For a report on the conference, click here.
Last week, Ambassador at Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer spoke at a dialogue on Healthy Women, Healthy Economies in Papua, New Guinea. She said:
"Gender equality is also smart economics. . . . According to a UN study, it is estimated that the Asia Pacific region is shortchanged between 42 and 47 billion dollars a year in GDP because of the untapped potential of women."
"In countries where men and women are closer to being equal in economic participation, political empowerment, access to education and health survivability, these countries enjoy greater prosperity and economic growth. Simply put – no country can get ahead if half its people are left behind. Gender equality is a key condition for a country’s prosperity."
THE CLOCK IS TICKING ON THE MEDICARE DEBATE
In our last newsletter, we talked about the fight for Medicare, and some important facts to keep in mind. Now, as Congress enters negotiations on how to adjust the federal debt ceiling, the future of Medicare is in question. Make sure you're ready to speak out in this important debate; click here to get the facts you need to know.
HILLARY AND OUR ALLIES IN AFRICA
Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Zambia, Tanzania and Ethiopia meeting with government officials, business and civil society leaders and local media. She spoke about America's commitment to working with our allies, launched an African Women's Entrepreneurship program in Zambia, and visited a health and family planning clinic in Tanzania, stressing the importance of women's health to building healthy communities.
© AP Photos, U.S. Embassy Lusaka Images
Partnership, Not Patronage
"The United States is a generous nation, a fact that makes Americans justifiably proud," Hillary said at the African Growth and Opportunity Forum. "But we have to be reminded that the purpose of aid is not to make us feel good about ourselves. It is to help people in developing countries improve their own lives, to have that paycheck. And by improving prosperity, one improves stability, and that does have a benefit for the United States to have a world that is safer and more prosperous."
"Our approach is based on partnership, not patronage. It is focused not on handouts but on the kind of economic growth that underlies long-term progress. Ultimately, it is aimed at helping developing countries chart their own futures and, frankly, end the need for aid at all."
"In every case, we want what we do to be country-led and country-driven. We want to deliver real results that people can see are making a difference in their lives. We want to empower people themselves."
SUPPORTING WOMEN'S HEALTH
Secretary Clinton visited a health and family planning clinic in Tanzania, remarking:
"We strongly believe that improving health for communities begins with improving health for women and girls, particularly pregnant women and their babies, because that is where it all starts."
“Because when women are healthy their children are healthy, and the family is healthier, and so is the community. So we have significantly increased our financial commitment to maternal and child health and family planning. . . And we are doing one more important piece of health, and that is gender-based violence. Gender-based violence is a violation of human rights. It also is an obstacle to a country’s political and economic development. It discourages women from going out into the community, from participating freely and securely in the outside world, and it is a physical and mental trauma that fuels the spread of disease, including HIV. . ."
© AP Photos
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"I well recall what it was like in my own country not too long ago. Women couldn’t get loans. Women couldn’t get credit. I remember when I was a practicing lawyer and my husband was the attorney general of our state of Arkansas, I was making roughly three times the money he was making in the 1970s. I could not get a credit card in my own name. Now, I will not mention the company that refused to give me a credit card in my own name, but I will hasten to add I’ve never done business with them since."
— Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Closing Remarks at the African Growth and Opportunity Forum, June 10, 2011.