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AAUW: Challenges remain on International Women’s Day

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POTSDAM - International Women’s Day is when women on all continents - divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences - come together to celebrate a tradition that represents a more than a century of struggle for equality, justice, peace and development.

The Charter of the United Nations, signed in San Francisco in 1945, was the first international agreement to proclaim gender equality as a fundamental human right. Few causes promoted by the United Nations have generated more intense and widespread support than the campaign to promote and protect the equal rights of women.

A central organizing principle of the work of the United Nations is that no enduring solution to society’s most threatening social, economic and political problems can be found without the full participation, and the full empowerment, of the world’s women.

Throughout its more than 130 year history, the American Association of University Women (AAUW) has shaped the social, political, and economic scene for women, fighting to win women the right to vote; pushing to close the wage gap; and advocating for landmark legislation that has changed women’s lives, such as Title IX and the Family and Medical Leave Act, and now working for Paid Family Leave Insurance.

Despite the improvements that have been made, women continue to face workplace discrimination, a higher risk of sexual assault, and an earnings gap that will cost the average woman hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of her working lifetime. AAUW continues to work towards diminishing all those barriers.

There are more working women than ever in the U.S. today and their paychecks are critical for a family’s success. Yet women still face basic inequity when they enter the workforce, as they find themselves paid less than men for the same or comparable jobs. To match men’s earnings last year, women have to work from January 2013 to April 8, 2014—an extra four months.

AAUW, working as part of the Equal Pay Coalition, invites all municipal leaders to join a state-wide initiative to proclaim April 8 as Equal Pay Day in NYS to being attention to the economic inequity that still exists and that still holds back our state’s economy.

Nearly four in 10 mothers are their household’s primary breadwinner and nearly two-thirds of mothers provide significant family support. Although families headed by a working mother make up less than a quarter of all working families, they make up nearly 40 percent of low-income families. Pay equity is critical for family economic security.

Consider that, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families, the wage gap results in for a total loss of income of $23,083,145,600 in New York State every year. What would adding those lost wages mean to the economic recovery of this state and its families?

The gridlock in Washington, the lack of action on unemployment, jobs and education all negatively impacts American families.

At the state level, the NYS Legislature failed to pass the Women’s Equality Act last year and shows little sign of planning to work together in 2014 to enact these basic legal protections that men have enjoyed for decades. These failures to upgrade and modernize laws at both the federal and state level threaten the economic security of women and their families, in addition to decreasing their retirement contributions and savings, which will put further pressure on programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Membership in the St. Lawrence County Branch, founded in 1927, is open to anyone who supports the mission of AAUW: Advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research.

AAUW, with its nationwide network of more than 150,000 members and supporters, more than 1,000 branches conducting programs in communities across the country, and 869 college and university partners (including all four local collages), has been a leading advocate for equity and education for women and their families since 1881.

For more information about AAUW in St. Lawrence County, contact President Jennifer Ball at 268- 4208 or jball@clarkson.edu or Public Policy Chair Kathleen Stein at 386-3812, kstein1@twcny.rr.com, or visit the branch website, http://www.northnet.org/stlawrenceaauw/index.html.

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