It was more than 20 years ago, but I still remember the eloquent words spoken by Hillary Clinton at the United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing. On that day, delegates from more than 180 countries heard Hillary say, "If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights, once and for all."
If I knew in 1995 that we'd still be talking about gender-based income inequality in 2015, I'd have been thoroughly depressed. It's a sad truth, but Hillary Clinton's words are just as relevant in this country today as they were in 1995. More and more women are struggling to get by with a shrinking income, often working multiple jobs just in order to raise their children and care for their families.
Too often, too many of us get caught up in the politics of a particular day. But equal pay for women is an issue that should be raised every day -- especially with a presidential election looming.
I wasn't surprised to hear Hillary Clinton address this important issue in a speech today in South Carolina. After all, she has been working to end the wage gap all of her career. She has fought for women's rights, advocated for women and girls abroad as Secretary of State, and worked as First Lady and Senator to address equality at home and in the workplace.
In the Senate, Hillary Clinton consistently advocated for paycheck fairness, introducing legislation to fight discrimination in the workplace and co-chairing hearings on the need to close the wage gap between men and women. Senator Clinton also was an original co-sponsor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay act, signed into law by President Obama in 2009, which expanded workers' rights to take pay discrimination issues to court.
Above all, though, she understands that equal pay is not just about fairness and women's rights; it's about strengthening our families and our country. She knows that families rely on women for labor and income in the household; as long as women and girls are valued less in the workplace, families will have less to contribute to our country and our economy.
In my opinion, every candidate who enters this presidential race should have a record of fighting to end inequality in the workplace.
Instead, here's what we have:
- When asked if he supports the Paycheck Fairness Act to give women equal pay for equal work, Jeb Bush replied, "What is the Paycheck Fairness Act?"
- Marco Rubio repeatedly voted against equal pay legislation, calling it "a welfare plan for trial lawyers."
- Rand Paul voted against paycheck fairness legislation multiple times and compared equal pay legislation to the Soviet Politburo.
- Scott Walker repealed a Wisconsin law allowing victims of pay discrimination to seek damages in state courts.
- Ted Cruz voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act three times.
As Hillary said today in South Carolina, "what century are they living in?" These Republican hopefuls simply don't get it. They don't get how important this issue is for women who are trying to raise their families and keep their heads above water -- and therefore how important this issue is to America's future and prosperity.
The UN World Conference in Beijing was 20 years ago. Twenty years from today, will we still be talking about this issue?
It depends on who you vote for in 2016.