05/31/2013 05:13 pm ET Updated Jul 31, 2013

Pass Women's Equality Agenda Now!

Over the past several years, we have seen a generational shift and an emerging consensus on a broad suite of reforms to address inequalities throughout our lives. Today in New York, Gov. Cuomo has put forth the Women's Equality Agenda, a comprehensive legislative package to continue our progress towards gender equality in the state.

While politicians -- disproportionately, overwhelmingly men -- continue to squabble over issues that they haven't experienced and don't understand, the ability for women to empower themselves continues to hang in the balance. We're fighting to address the various inequalities that women in the state face daily, from status and pay in the workplace to access to proper health care that grants women the right to make our own reproductive decisions. The Women's Equality Agenda is a groundbreaking legislative proposal to level the playing field and break down barriers so women -- mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives -- can more fully and equally participate in society.

The facts are as plain as day, and they're alarming.

The women who call New York home will on average earn 84 percent of what their male counterparts are paid, and will earn $500,000 less than men over the course of a lifetime. These women are five times as likely to be sexually harassed and far more likely to experience violence in the home and harassment and discrimination at work -- in fact, 75 percent of sexual harassment complaints filed in New York are filed by women. Women with children are less likely to be recommended for hire or promoted, and they're more likely to be discriminated against when seeking affordable housing. And women, unlike men throughout New York, don't have complete say over their reproductive health care, even when their own health is in danger.

For too long we've turned a blind eye to these issues. New York's 10 million women deserve a level playing field. All 10 points of the Women's Equality Agenda comprehensively address the structural obstacles to women's equality in New York. In addition to achieving pay equity and protecting reproductive health and choice, the Agenda will strengthen laws against sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and discrimination against parents. All 10 of these key points are critical, and together, they will go a long way toward breaking down barriers women face in the workplace and at home.

All of these proposals have remarkably broad support throughout the state. More than 800 organizations -- including labor unions, religious groups, large and small businesses and business owners, and local chambers of commerce -- have joined together to form the Women's Equality Coalition and push our government to pass the Agenda. Gov. Cuomo wants this. The State Assembly wants this. The vast majority of the state wants this.

So, why is progress so difficult?

Unfortunately, State Senate Republican Conference Leader Dean Skelos' backwards ideas about women's ability to make personal health care decisions is standing in the way of progress. Despite a recent Siena poll showing that 80 percent of New Yorkers want to update our abortion laws to bring them in line with federal standards and protect women's right to choose -- as affirmed by the United States Supreme Court -- Skelos is attempting to force unpopular views on constituents and hold us back from achieving long awaited equality for women.

The New York State Senate can't be allowed to hold women back for another generation, nor can equality be compromised. The Women's Equality Agenda -- all 10 points of it -- is a common sense solution for the common sense women of New York.