On International Women’s Day, I’d like to reflect on all the things women have accomplished, but also recognize the progress that still needs to be made.
The U.S. Department of Labor says that women make up 47 percent of the workforce and that women’s unemployment is presently 4.8 percent, down from a high of 9 percent in 2010. Women also own 10 million businesses that account for $1.4 trillion in receipts.
Women are the primary decision makers when it comes to health care, childcare, and purchasing decisions in a household. Women make up the majority of American registered voters and represent 58 percent of our college graduates.
Education played an important role in my life. I was fortunate that when I was growing up, my father treated me no differently than my brother. He expected us to do well in school and encouraged us to pursue a higher education.
My family immigrated to the United States from Europe when I was a young child. We came with no money, no education and did not speak English. My father knew that education was our path out of poverty. He was right. As I earned higher degrees and certification, my career prospects and income also grew.
My life and education represent a striking departure from those of my mother. When she grew up on a rural farm, women did not receive an education. My mother never learned how to read or write. In fact, all major life decisions were made by the males in the family, as is still the case in many countries today.
While educational opportunities greatly improved from women in the United States and Europe, this is not the case in a number of countries. In 2013, UNICEF estimated that as many as 63 million young girls worldwide did not attend school. Some of those girls are probably among the 39,000 who become child brides every day and face a higher risk of death from childhood pregnancies.
As much progress as women have made in the United States, we are still not entirely equal. Women in 2014 earned 79 percent as much as men. Only one in three chief executives and one in six software developers are women. In addition, one in five women are surgeons or politicians.
The United States also has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world, and in every country, violence against women remains a serious problem. The World Health Organization reports that one in three women experience physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence over their lifetime.
On International Women’s Day, we celebrate the strides women have made and recommit to making the world a place of true equality for our daughters and young girls everywhere.
State Senator Toni Boucher represents the 26th District, which includes the communities of Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.