Happy International Women's Day from a Democrat abroad!
Greetings from Switzerland where International Women's Day is a big deal. Well, at least everyone knows that it rolls around once a year.
I have grown to love International Women's Day as a chance to take stock of where we are in the march towards equality. Because until women in the work force make more than 78 cents on the dollar to a man's dollar, we are not equal. (That's the US figure, by the way, not the figure for Switzerland). Until we move up from the ranking of #78 in the worldwide number of women elected to federal office, tied with Turkmenistan, (that's the US figure again, Switzerland is #30), we can't really say that women are being given a chance to make all the big decisions at the table with the big boys. Witness the ludicrous sight of the all male House panel discussing women's contraception last month. We have work to do.
For International Women's Day I would like to see my beloved Democratic party, the party that believes in and lives gender parity, and the party that has produced some of the most fabulous female politicians on the planet, to declare a war for women.
Begin with the Paycheck Fairness Act. Because there are 71 million women in the US workforce. Equal pay has been the law of our land since 1963. And 49 years later, in 2012, 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 2012! I suppose that is progress. But awfully slow.
And it ain't just the old female huntin' dogs earning the lesser wage. 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, and then continues to increase, and increase.
Let's tackle maternity (parental) leave. Did you know that out of 168 nations, 163 have some form of paid parental leave? This leaves the U.S. in the company of Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland. (That's not Switzerland, although folks sometimes confuse them on alphabetized lists) The U.S. is the only industrialized nation that doesn't mandate that parents of newborns get paid leave. We have roughly half of all Americans covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows employees with newborn children to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave instead.
Let's really be the party of the family, the middle class, and of family values. Parental leave benefits children, and families. Families in all of their myriad configurations are what strengthen the fabric of our nation. Women's equality is furthered, and society is more balanced. Global studies even show parental leave plays a part in lower divorce rates and increased joint custody of children.
And while we are looking at the rest of the world, let's join the "Industrialized Nations Club" on another lists and finally ratify CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Every other industrialized country in the world, and almost the entire international community, 185 countries, count 'em, has ratified this 1979 international treaty.
Of all the countries in the world, only the United States of America, Iran, Somalia, and Sudan, Nauru, Palau, and Tonga have not ratified the treaty. What extraordinary company to keep under any circumstances -- no less in the arena of women's rights.
In case you've forgotten, 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 gathered dust "waiting for comment" from the Bush Administration. Our President Obama and Democrats have wanted to ratify the treaty, but we lack the 67 votes in the Senate.
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, all citizens, of the United States.
Included on the list of good reasons to ratify CEDAW is that it extols the just and fair virtues of equal pay for equal work, and parental leave.
Let's end discrimination against women, officially, in the United States of America.
Because I am tired of the war on women, I am ready for Democrats to wage a war for women.