International Women's Day falls on March 8th, this coming Sunday. In order to get a jumpstart on the conversation, how about institutionalizing a fair deal for US women this year?
There are 71 million women in the US workforce.
Equal pay has been the law of our land since 1963.
45 years later, in the year 2009, the ratio of women to men median annual earnings is 78 cents on the dollar for full-time year-round workers.
That's the good news, folks. Wages went up ONE PENNY from
77 cents on the dollar in 2006, to 78 cents in 2007! That's progress. Absurdly slow progress by any standard.
And it ain't just the old female huntin' dogs earning the lesser wage.
Dig this: just one year out of college women working full time already
earn less than their male colleagues, even when they work in the same
field. Ten years after graduation, this gap increases.
What is that all about?
Maybe I have lived in Europe too long.
I know we have all been incredibly excited about President Obama's
signature on the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. But honestly, as righteous as the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is, (and there is no bigger fan of courageous, indomitable, strong Lily Ledbetter than I ), the law only gives women more rights to challenge a discriminatory paycheck.
Is that enough? Is that the best we can do? Shouldn't we be fairer than that?
Why do we need to have this conversation in 2009 anyway ? Wasn't this supposed to be taken care of in 1963?
We need to fix this inequity. NOW.
Another step to show that our new nation of change and hope cares to take women's rights a little seriously, (in addition to passing the Paycheck Fairness Act) would be to have the United States ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
Lest you think this a wild eyed radical notion let me note that every other industrialized country in the world, and almost the entire international community, 185 countries, count 'em, has ratified this 1979 international treaty.
CEDAW was signed in 1980 by President Carter, but was not considered until 1990 by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (where it was held hostage by Senator Jesse Helms). CEDAW has survived Foreign Relations Committee twice: once in 1994, then in 2002. (Go Joe Biden!!) Since emerging from the 2002 Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it has gathered dust "waiting for comment" from the Bush Administration.
Of all the countries in the world, only the United States of America, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan, Nauru, Palau, Qatar, and Tonga have NOT ratified the treaty. What extraordinary company to keep under any circumstances; no less in the arena of women's rights.
I repeat: Iran. Somalia. Sudan. Qatar Tonga. Palau And us. (I had no idea where Palau or Nauru were until just now. I bet they just don't remember they forgot to ratify CEDAW. )
CEDAW is often described as an international bill of rights for women. Under the Convention, signatories are legally committed to take the necessary steps to end all forms of discrimination against women in any field - whether political, economic, social, cultural or civic. What's wrong with that?
There are a host of reasons for us to ratify CEDAW, including a desire to return to the international community as a member in good standing; the treaty being a beacon of hope for women around the world, and a positive statement for the citizens of the United States.
Included on this list of good reasons to ratify CEDAW is that it extols the just and fair virtues of equal pay for equal work.
But the first and best reason is that it is just fair.
Let's end discrimination against women, officially, in the United States of America.