The month of March highlights and celebrates the many historic and contemporary contributions of women to society. The commemoration has its roots back to the 1800s when female factory workers in New York City staged protests over working conditions. But it wasn’t until 1987 when Congress officially established Women’s History Month.
Last year, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation that stated, “During Women’s History Month, we recognize the victories, struggles and stories of women who have made our country what it is today.”
Throughout the decades, women, especially those in labor unions, worked for pay equity. It was in 1981 when a New York State Assembly Task Force on Women’s Issues was established, and in 1987 Assembly Member Helen Weinstein was appointed chair. Its purpose was to identify issues that affect women and initiate new legislation to further their rights. During a seven-year time span, the task force endorsed nearly 500 bills, many that have been signed into law.
In March 1994, PEF established a Women’s Task Force and organized focus groups in Buffalo, Albany and New York City to give members the opportunity to identify and express their concerns, one of which still remained equal pay. Today, PEF’s Women’s Committee and Women’s Program continue to hold conferences addressing the ever-changing needs of working women, and expanding its focus on timely concerns, including pay parity.
Women have come a long way during the decades, and PEF salutes each and every one who have made a difference with their vision and activism. But for every dollar a man earns today, a woman earns 91 cents. The goal of equal pay is still 9 cents away.