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In Honor of International Women's Day

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Location: Washington, DC


IN HONOR OF INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY -- (House of Representatives - March 09, 2006)

Mr. SCHIFF. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in honor of International Women's Day. More than 30 years ago, March 8 was designated by the United Nations as a day to reflect upon women's struggle for equality, justice, peace and development. In the decades since, International Women's Day has become a holiday in many countries around the world, and acts as an annual catalyst for the advancement of women.

Throughout our history, the United States has been a leader in advancing women's rights and opportunity. While much work remains here and abroad, I join many of my colleagues and constituents in saluting the contributions of women around the world.

Many of those contributions have been made through the recent election of women political leaders. Chile, Jamaica, Germany and Liberia have all elected women to head their governments in the past 6 months. Despite this encouraging trend, governments led by women remain an anomaly. Only 11 out of the more than 200 members of the United Nations have women leaders. Moreover, there remains persistent underrepresentation of women serving as legislators, parliamentarians, and government ministers. Globally, women hold only 16 percent of all seats, a disappointing increase of only 5 percent since 1975. The 109th U.S. Congress boasts 84 female Members, the highest number in our history, but women still make up only 6.4 percent of the membership of the House and Senate, well below the world's average.

Development experts and advocates have long identified education as the key to improving women's well-being. More than 180 governments committed to achieving gender equality in education by 2005 as one of eight U.N. Millennium Development Goals, but we have a long way to go.

In the developing world, 60 million girls aged 6 to 11 are not in school, which severely limits their political, physical, and social opportunities.

In developed countries, an increasing number of women are pursuing higher education, but they have been unable to secure academic employment or research funding proportionate to their male colleagues. Policymakers have become increasingly concerned about a growing shortage of men on America's college campuses, but several important departments in our universities remain disproportionately the province of men, especially at the graduate level. The percentage of women earning advanced degrees in science or engineering is especially low. Only one in four master's degrees in these fast-growing fields is awarded to a woman. Even women who do earn Ph.D.s in computer science and engineering earn, on average, $9,000 less per year than men in similar positions.

This income disparity is reflected throughout the workforce where women continue to face multiple impediments to their advancement. American women still earn an average of 25 percent less than their male colleagues, a wider wage gap than that in other developed countries, which affects women of all ages, races, and education levels. Unfortunately, the wage disparity is being narrowed at a rate of less than half a penny a year.

In the 108th Congress, I was proud to cosponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act to combat gender-based wage discrimination by requiring that employees be educated about their rights, and permitting women to seek recourse under the Equal Pay Act.

There are some positive trends. While less than one third of employers in the developing world are women, this percentage is growing, especially in the United States. Between 1997 and 2004, the number of American companies primarily owned by women grew by 23 percent, well above the 9 percent overall increase in U.S. businesses during this period.

Here and abroad, though, women remain vulnerable to violence. I was proud to cosponsor the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2005, and I have been a longtime advocate of efforts to prevent and treat domestic violence, child abuse, dating violence, and sexual assault. I have consistently advocated for greater Federal funding for research and treatment programs for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, heart disease and postpartum depression.

In acknowledging the challenges faced and overcome by women, I want to commend the sacrifices of America's brave women serving overseas, especially in Iraq. Women have served in every U.S. military conflict since the Revolution and have played an official role in the U.S. military for over 100 years. Today, women make up almost 15 percent of Active-Duty personnel. One in every seven U.S. soldiers in Iraq is a woman, and they are engaged in the conflict on a far greater scale than ever before, piloting helicopters, accompanying infantry on raids against insurgents, searching Iraqi women suspects for pistols and suicide belts. The contribution of American women has come at a high price. To date, 48 service women have been killed in Iraq and more than 300 have been wounded, but their service has inspired their compatriots on the front lines and here at home, as well as millions of women in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world, as symbols of women's courage and capacity. And today, we salute them and all women for their contributions.

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