International Women's Day is a Day for Action

President Obama and the First Lady recognized International Women’s Day earlier this week with a moving and sometimes funny ceremony in the East Room. The President said that “the story of America’s women, like the story of America itself, has had its peaks and valleys. But as one of our great American educators once said, if you drew a line through all the valleys and all the peaks, that line would be drawn with an upward curve. That upward curve—what we call progress—didn’t happen by accident.

Three actions that the President can take right now would add another peak to the story of America’s women, and to the story of our nation. First, and most simply, he should direct the Secretary of Labor to collect, analyze, and report to Congress and the public gender and wage information for jobs receiving federal financial assistance or tax credits—including through the economic stimulus package and pending jobs bill. That information is crucial for ensuring that federal investments improve rather than worsen the yawning gap in American women’s wages—77¢ for every dollar earned by men. Collecting and reporting this information, then using the data to enforce our equal opportunity laws, is something the Administration can do on its own. Today.

Second, the President should call on Congress to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Ratifying the convention—which President Carter Signed in 1980—would recognize equal opportunity regardless of gender as a human right that our nation respects at home and abroad. It would serve as a resource for ensuring equal access to education and economic opportunities, as well as freedom from violence and abuse. And it would strengthen our nation’s leadership in promoting the human rights of women around the world. The Obama administration has said in the past that it considers ratification of this convention to be an "important priority." It’s time to make that priority a reality.

Finally, the Administration should take action to transform the ineffective and politically divisive U.S. Commission on Civil Rights into a revitalized U.S. Commission on Civil and Human Rights. A reformulated Commission should be comprised of members nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. And it should have an updated mission for the 21st century, including addressing contemporary barriers to opportunity facing women and girls. Transforming the Commission will require action by Congress. But the President should provide visible leadership on the issue, including proposing a structure and mission statement for the reformed body, and reporting on the human rights issues that it should prioritize.

International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on the obstacles that women have overcome in the U.S and around the world. It’s also a time to acknowledge the hurdles that still exist, and for leadership in knocking them down.

Read more at The Opportunity Agenda website.

Tags: obama, first lady, Opportunity, Michelle, Women, Labor (all tags)

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