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Breaking Glass

Women's Equality Day: An occasion for a conversation about better pay for women

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On Aug. 26, 1920, women officially won the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
On Aug. 26, 1920, women officially won the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. - (Thinkstock)

It's hard to believe, but women in the United States have only had the right to vote for the past 93 years. On Aug. 26, 1920, the suffragettes officially triumphed over the stodgy old-timers with the ratification of the 19th amendment to the Constitution. For all the times we dread waiting in line to cast our votes, it's worth remembering that there was a time not that long ago when women had absolutely no say in who runs this country— a frightening thought.

It took decades of fighting to win that right—and decades more for women to gain a firm foothold in the American workforce. Today, the fight continues. We have successfully pried our way into all kinds of professions; but we still aren't paid the same.

In an official proclamation declaring today Women's Equality Day, President Obama called on the country to celebrate the milestones women have reached in the past 93 years. But he also cautioned that there is more to be done to level the playing field between men and women. On average, he wrote, women are paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to men.

"A fair deal for women is essential to a thriving middle class," he wrote.

In New Jersey, elected officials commemorated Women's Equality Day with a rallying cry to increase the minimum wage —a step they claimed would bring a better quality of life for all minimum wage workers in the state, 60 percent of whom are women. The proposed increase—which would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.25, with annual cost-of-living increases every year going forward—will appear on the voting ballot this November.

The minimum wage increase is a divisive issue. Business advocates argue that it would ultimately do more harm than good, killing tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade. The voters have to decide what's best come November. But the fact that equal pay between the genders is still top of mind for many women in the state means we are likely to see more progress in the not-so-distant future.

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