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Fighting for full equality

Today is International Women’s Day – a time to take stock of both the tremendous progress we’ve made and the hard work left ahead, to celebrate the achievements of women who came before us and to reaffirm our commitment to carry on the fight for full equality.

There’s a lot to be proud of this year. We have more women serving in Congress than at any time in American history. Women are serving in military combat roles that were long closed to them, and female veterans are helping to lead a new generation of veteran advocates. 95 years after we won the right to vote, women make up a majority of the American electorate, and I believe 2016 will be the year that we finally elect a woman to serve as President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the American military.

Those are all signs of real progress, but it’s important to recognize that the fight for full equality has only just begun. Women hold less than 20% of the seats in Congress, and remain vastly underrepresented in corporate boardrooms and private-sector leadership positions. We have a campaign finance system that puts women at a disadvantage and keeps too many potential leaders on the sidelines. Too many women in America still earn less than men for equal work, are still disproportionately segregated in low-wage jobs, and are still forced to fight for the freedom to make our own health care choices. Too many women around the world are still victims of systematic oppression and subjugation, denied the basic rights and freedoms that should be guaranteed to all human beings.

The pace of progress can be frustrating. It can make you cynical. But I’m reminded today of my mother, who was an eternal optimist. She believed any problem could be solved as long as people were willing to put in the work, and she had no time for anyone who said otherwise. That sense of optimism may be the most valuable thing my mother left me – and that’s what inspires me every single day to keep our goal of full equality firmly in sight, to know that we can reach it, and to put in the hard work to help us get there.  

Posted on March 8, 2016.
Photo by Joe Mabel
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Kathleen Rice represents New York's Fourth Congressional District on Long Island. A career prosecutor, Kathleen is a progressive Democrat known for her independent style and ability to work with people from both parties to take on big problems.

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