Throughout this Women’s History Month, we celebrate the women in Ohio and across our nation who have shaped the course of our history and worked to make our country better.
From Lorain’s Toni Morrison, a Pulitzer Prize-winner whose writing has inspired so many while illuminating the struggles of women of color, to Toledo’s Gloria Steinem, whose journalism and activism helped spark the modern feminist movement, Ohio women have captured our imaginations and used their talents to make an impact on our state, our country and our world.
But while we celebrate the trailblazing women who came before us and those who are forging new trails today, we must also recommit ourselves to the work still ahead to achieve full equality. We must not rest until there are no more barriers left to break.
Ohio women still earn just 78 cents for every dollar a man earns — and that disparity has gotten worse over the past several years. We have no national, guaranteed, paid, family leave and no national childcare agenda, leaving too many women to choose between a paycheck and caring for a loved one or child.
Nearly 600,000 households in Ohio are headed by women, so we know that the future of Ohio families depends on ensuring that women have equal pay, equal rights and equal opportunity.
That’s why I am committed to passing the Paycheck Fairness Act to ensure women receive the equal pay they’ve earned. We must continue to fight for fair family and medical leave policies and to raise the minimum wage — the majority of minimum wage workers are women, and a higher minimum wage will mean more money in the pockets of middle class families.
To close the gender pay gap and ensure all Ohioans, both men and women, can reach their full potential, we need to boost women’s representation in high-paying careers, particularly the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Right now, women hold just 26 percent of all STEM jobs.
Every summer, my office hosts manufacturing camps for fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders, both boys and girls. We’ve partnered with the YWCA to cosponsor the camps and ensure we have girls as well as boys participating.
As part of the camps, students visit actual engineering and manufacturing facilities to see where their STEM education can take them in the real world. One 11-year-old girl came to the camp because she loved math. The manufacturing hub tour in Youngstown was her favorite part because she got to see a laser.
But she didn’t just see a laser that day. She saw a future that excited her and encouraged her to continue loving and learning math. Just think where she can go with a little more encouragement.
Civil Rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune, who founded the National Council of Negro Women, said that she was driven in her work because she could “not rest to see the unharnessed womenpower among our women.”
As the father of two daughters and the husband of a woman who inspires me every day, I have been blessed to see the results of “womenpower” throughout my life. We must not rest until every woman in Ohio and around the globe has the opportunity to harness her power and her abilities to reach her potential. When all of us — men and women, black and white, young and old — have equal opportunity to succeed, I know there is no limit to what we can achieve for our state and our country.
The writer is a U.S. senator from Ohio.