Remarks by Rep. Jan Schakowsky at the New Women’s Economic Agenda

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–May 15, 2015.  I joined Leader Pelosi, House Democratic women and women from across the country to discuss our Women’s Economic Agenda, from higher pay and an end to the gender gap to a robust Older Americans Act reauthorization. Our mission is not just possible but essential because when Women Succeed,  America succeeds! Below I have included my remarks from this week’s press event rolling out the agenda and the full description of the agenda.

Remarks on the Women’s Economic Agenda, focusing on the pillar of Retirement Security

It’s an honor to be here with so many fabulous women on a mission to improve the economic well-being of women, families and our country. We have a retirement crisis in our country – and women are most at risk of retiring without savings or outliving their savings.Women live longer than men, spend more on health care, and are more likely to be on their own in retirement. But few women can count on a secure retirement.  Today nearly 30 million working women have no retirement plan – no pension, no 401(k), no retirement savings. 

We all know the reasons.  The problems facing women during their careers follow them into retirement. Smaller paychecks – 78 cents on the dollar – means less money available to save for retirement. Lack of affordable child and family care means more women have to work part-time – and don’t qualify for benefits. When women take time out of the workforce to serve as caregivers for parents or children – their work doesn’t count towards earned Social security benefits. 

We know the problems – and we know the solutions – our Economic Agenda for Women and Families. Higher pay and an end to the gender pay gap, better benefits and paid leave. Recognition and support for caregivers –providing affordable family care options and giving caregivers credit toward Social Security.

Passing a robust Older Americans Act reauthorization to provide services from Meals on Wheels to elder justice. Protecting and strengthening Social Security –the only source of income for one-third of older women – and improving access to quality health and long-term care through Medicare and Medicaid.   And this year – the 80th anniversary of Social Security and the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid – is a great time to act. That’s our mission – it’s a mission that is not just possible but essential because when women succeed, families succeed and America succeeds.  And we will succeed.

When women succeed, America succeeds. It’s a fact whose truth reverberates throughout our history. And today, the success of women is more important than ever to the strength of America’s working families and the future of our economy.

Today, women make up almost half of all workers in America. Working mothers are the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of America’s families.  But more needs to be done to address the very real challenges that still exist for women and hard-working American families.

Too many women are asked to bear the burden of outdated policies that diminish opportunities for women’s full participation in our workforce. Too many women are faced with the lack of good-paying jobs, and the daily challenge of providing for their families.  Too many women and their families are unable to buy a home, pay for college for their children, and save for a secure retirement.

It doesn’t have to be this way. 

The Facts Are Staggering:

Even in 2015, women continue to earn less than men. Women make on average only 78 cents for every dollar a man makes; the pay gap exists even the first year out of college and continues through a woman’s life.

Women account for nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers. 

The poverty rate – 14.5 percent for women – remains the highest in two decades. 

Family and medical leave protections fail to cover nearly half of America’s full-time employees.

Women-owned businesses continue to lag behind men-owned businesses. The average revenue of women-owned businesses is only 27% of the average revenue of men-owned businesses.

Social Security and Medicare are particularly key to women, who live longer, usually have lower retirement savings and spend more on medical care.  56% of Medicare enrollees are women.

American women have made great strides throughout history.  More than 165 years ago in Seneca Falls, the first women’s rights convention addressed the status of women in social, economic, and political life, and demanded that women be granted the same rights and privileges afforded to men.  

While progress has been made since that historic gathering, the fight for justice, for equal rights, for greater opportunity, is far from over.  House Democrats proudly support When Women Succeed, America Succeeds: An Economic Agenda for Women and Families, an agenda that builds on all that was accomplished at Seneca Falls, that was achieved by the suffragettes, and that has been advanced by activists in every generation – by answering the economic challenges facing women and families today. 

When Women Succeed, America Succeeds

House Democrats believe in investing in hard-working families by bringing bigger paychecks and better infrastructure to the American people.

The When Women Succeed, America Succeeds economic agenda will empower women to achieve greater economic security, raise wages for women across the country, and enable working parents to support and care for their families.

It seeks to ensure women get equal pay for equal work.  It helps ensure work and family balance by allowing working parents to support their families and care for their children, sick family members or aging parents.  It recognizes that expanding educational opportunities, increasing job training, and strengthening investments in women entrepreneurs are essential for women’s success in our economy.  It calls for continuing to ensure a secure source of retirement income and of health care coverage for Americans at the end of their working lives.  

Below are some of the policies that will ensure when women succeed, America succeeds.