Celebrating the contributions of women

U.S. House of Representatives

Since 1981, America has recognized March as Women’s History Month. The month is a time to celebrate the successes of America’s women throughout our history and the courage and sacrifice of the bold women pioneers who broke down many barriers facing women.

The 2016 theme for women’s history month is: “Working to form a more perfect union: honoring women in public service and government.” This theme encourages us to recognize and honor the countless women who were trailblazers in the formation of our country and the advancement of our democracy. Since America’s founding, women have been active participants in our nation’s government. Even as they fought for representation and the right to vote, women served in roles that shaped and molded the fabric of our nation. Susanna Salter is an example of an early champion. She was elected as the first mayor of a U.S. city in 1887, decades before women were granted the right to vote.

As the first registered nurse to have ever served in Congress, I stand on the shoulders of many great women who paved the way for me and for others. They include Congresswoman Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to serve in Congress; Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to the House of Representatives, and my personal mentor, Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, the first African American elected from the state of Texas to serve in the House.

Each year as we celebrate the achievements of women, I am encouraged and inspired by the strength, the courage and the passion of these women. Yes, women have progressed significantly, but there is much more that needs to be done to ensure gender equality. Although the very first piece of legislation that President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, designed to produce a level playing field in the workplace, today women only make 79 cents compared to each dollar that a man makes for the exact same work.

While women earn 60 percent of all undergraduate and master’s degree in this country, they only comprise 25 percent of all executive level positions and account for less than 5 percent of the chief executive officers who run Fortune 500 companies.

The success of our nation depends on the economic progress and security of women and working families. As Jordan once eloquently stated, “What the people want is very simple – they want an America as good as its promise.”

While representing you in Congress, I will continue to fight for an economic agenda that works for women and their families. Our mothers, our wives, our sisters and our daughters deserve the very same opportunities as men have in this society.

Each Women’s History Month, I ask you to join me in celebrating the contributions that America’s women have made to our country and in advocating for new opportunities to provide women with the economic security that they deserve and their family’s need.

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson is the ranking member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the highest-ranking Texan on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

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