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Editors Note: Watch President Obama and the First Lady speak about the achievements of women around the world at a reception marking International Women’s Day.
I grew up in a time when graduating from high school was an accomplishment, and expectations of young women were very low...especially for women of color.
My high school guidance counselor told me that I was best suited for a career as a secretary... an office assistant to be exact. Well, he was right after all. I ended up as a Secretary, but not quite the one he had in mind.
I am a product of the women's movement... the social justice movement... and the civil rights movement. I come from a home that valued hard work and taught me to provide a lending hand to your neighbor when they are in need.
And so, yesterday in celebration of International Women’s Day I thought of several women I have met in my travels across the country. These are women who are trying to feed and clothe their children without a guaranteed income, or without a doctor to see because they have lost their health insurance.
Despite the changes in today’s workforce and families, today’s workplace benefits simply do not reflect the challenges and realities of today’s workers. Too many families must make the painful choice between the care of their families and a paycheck they desperately need.
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of hosting the First Lady at the Department of Labor. In an address to more than 600 employees, she emphasized this administration’s commitment to today’s working families saying “It’s time we viewed family-friendly policies as not just niceties for women but as necessities for every single working American—men and women.”
Since families are depending more and more on working women's wages it is more important now than ever that we:
I am proud to say that my Department is doing all it can to support women. My proposed 2011 budget establishes a $50 million State Paid Leave Fund to help cover start-up costs for states that choose to launch paid leave programs. In addition, it provides resources for the Women’s Bureau – celebrating it 90th anniversary – to improve the collection of data related to the intersection of work and family responsibilities.
Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons, and our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity — men and women — to reach their full potential.
Hilda Solis is the Secretary of Labor