A group of elected officials, all women, were at Cal State Los Angeles Monday to discuss their economic agenda for women, including paycheck fairness, childcare and immigration reform. Their discussion coincides with Women’s History Month, observed every year in March.
The Democrats top ranking member of the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, joined Congresswoman Judy Chu of Monterey Park, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and candidate for County Board of Supervisor Hilda Solis and State Sen. Holly Mitchell, whose 30th district includes parts of the city of Los Angeles for a discussion based on the premise that “When women succeed, America succeeds.”
Pelosi, the first and only female Speaker of the House Representatives, has made many strides for female rights, Chu said during her introduction of the congresswoman.
She helped pass health care reform, pushed for a vote on the Dream Act and passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that prohibits paying female employees less than their male counterparts, Chu said.
Pelosi told the small group of attendees that raising the minimum wage would help the many women and children living in poverty.
“What drives my engine now is seeing that one in five children lives in poverty, that is intolerable,” she said. “We have to do something to change it.”
She talked about giving people hope so they feel they can achieve something greater.
“Children learning, parents earning its all connected,” Pelosi said. “Nothing brings more money than the education of the American people.”
Solis addressed the lower wages among women of color, noting that Latinas on average earn $23, 000 a year while African American women earn $18,000 a year.
“Tell me that isn’t a problem for our families,” she said.
Sen. Mitchell pointed out that one of the biggest obstacles to women achieving success in the workforce is the lack of childcare.
“So many of us, no matter the job, when asked to define ourselves we’re a mother’ first,” she said. “Childcare keeps California working.”
The senator pointed out that $4 million for childcare was cut out of the state’s budget. That’s 110,000 child slots, she said. And now that the state budget is back in the black, the governor is focused on saving for a rainy day, she said.
“I don’t know about his community, but in my community its been raining for a long time,” said Mitchell, triggering applause from the audience.
The list of speakers included two women who shared stories about their personal struggles and the difficulty many women, especially mothers, have multi-tasking.
Single mother Ronetta Jackson shared her experience raising her daughter on her own while taking care of her sick father.
She said she fears many home support workers like her may see their hours capped by the state, despite the jobs requiring 40 hours or more.
“You can’t balance the budget on the backs of paid workers,” she said.
Magali Sanchez-Hall is also a single parent and a survivor of domestic violence. She was called a “success story” after seemingly beating the odds as an immigrant who at one point was on food stamps and is now working on her PhD at UCLA.
How do you manage everything on your plate? Sanchez-Hall was asked.
“I’m a woman,” she replied.