Accusations from Democrats that Republicans do not support equal pay for equal work "could not be further from the truth," says Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, adding that "politicizing" women won't help them succeed.
"In the past few weeks, the ongoing debate over 'equal pay for equal work' has typified this type of unfair politicization – this time with women – and instead of working together on solutions to empower American women, it has only perpetuated false accusations," the House Republican Conference chairwoman said in an opinion piece for ABC News
She said that she worked at a McDonald's to pay for school and was the first of her family to graduate from college, and as the mother of two daughters, "I have never once wavered in my support of equal pay for equal work," and she hopes that her daughters will find equality in the workplace when they grow up and pursue their careers.
"Protections against gender discrimination exist to give my daughters and the millions of other working women in America that very peace of mind," McMorris Rodgers said. "Republicans were instrumental in ensuring passage of the two groundbreaking, bipartisan laws codifying equal pay for equal work: The Equal Pay Act (1963) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964). If a woman believes she has been discriminated against in the workplace – which is both unjust and repulsive – she has every legal recourse in place to remain protected."
And she insisted that "nobody on Capitol Hill" from either party accepts discrimination against women in the workplace.
More than 72 million women are in the workforce, said McMorris Rodgers, compared to 18 million in 1950, which marks a significant change. Meanwhile, "nearly 50% of women today make the family’s financial decisions; 85% make the health care decisions; and more than half of the women in our workforce are the primary income earners in their families."
But the debate should not stop at equal pay, but instead on better pay and better lives for women, McMorris Rodgers said.
"Let’s stop politicizing women and start helping them get ahead," she said. "Women play an invaluable role in America’s economy, and they know firsthand the effects of mandates from Washington that make it harder and harder to pay the bills each month."
Further, she pointed out that women make healthcare decisions, start two of every three new businesses, and "juggle work and motherhood and everything in between."
The debate is about more than equal pay, said McMorris Rodgers, but also about "empowering women with better paychecks, better opportunities, and better lives."
She pointed out that House Republicans have presented several jobs-related bills, promoted solutions on health care, passed legislation to improve skills and job training, and have sponsored bills to provide workplace flexibility.
"What would most help women across America succeed – more than political gamesmanship ever could – would be for both parties to work together to act on these pro-women, pro-jobs and pro-growth solutions," she said. "Politicizing women won’t help them get ahead. But coming together to enact real solutions will."
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