Congressman John Tierney today hosted U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis for a special "Women in the Workforce" event. The forum featured remarks from Congressman Tierney, Secretary Solis, and Massachusetts Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Joanne F. Goldstein, and included a Q&A session with more than 65 women leaders in the fields of government, non-profit advocacy, business, green energy, education, and more. Additionally, many of the women were joined by an emerging woman leader in their field.
"Women are essential to our country's economic recovery, earning the majority of college degrees and comprising almost half of the labor force for the first time in history. Yet, the glass ceiling still exists, and the battle for equality continues to be hindered in Congress, where many Republicans have spent the last two years voting to block consideration of the Paycheck Fairness Act, passing a bill to roll back the Violence Against Women Act, and supporting legislation to turn back the clock on critical health care coverage," Congressman Tierney said.
"I thank U.S. Secretary Solis, Massachusetts Secretary Goldstein, and the women who participated today for joining together to bring much needed attention and focus to these issues. When we talk about job training and employment services for women, pay discrimination, and workplace flexibility, we have to remember that these are not just 'women's issues' but ones which have a much broader impact on the future of our children and grandchildren, the security of middle-class families, and the health of our nation's economy," Congressman Tierney concluded.
During the event Secretary Solis spoke about the Department of Labor's efforts to stamp out gender-based pay discrimination as well as other efforts to make sure women have access to the skills and training they need to succeed and provide a better life and more prosperous future for them and their families.
"I was thrilled to join Congressman Tierney for an important conversation on the challenges women continue to face in the modern workplace. The number of women who work outside of the home has more than doubled in the last forty years. The number of women who graduate from college has more than tripled. Within the next eight years women will account for nearly 60% of undergraduate enrollment. So our roles have changed and so have the rules. At the Department of Labor that means clarifying the Family and Medical Leave Act to allow families to take off work to care for a child regardless of their biological relationship, dedicating millions of dollars to training programs to help women land jobs in health care, technology, IT and advanced manufacturing, and leading the national fight to secure equal pay for equal work," said Hilda Solis, U.S. Secretary of Labor.
"Massachusetts is committed to creating a workforce in which women thrive," said Secretary Goldstein. "From our One-Stop Career Centers to our various STEM initiatives to our transitional employment programs, we continue to build an infrastructure that will ensure that women have equal access to and receive equal pay for work in the Commonwealth," said Joanne Goldstein, Massachusetts Labor and Workforce Development Secretary.
"Very inspiring event! Although there is still work to do in closing the wage gap, Secretary Solis made it clear that access to education and training is important to our success as a nation. It was gratifying to hear that local, state and federal agencies are working together to partner up and share best practices and that Massachusetts is often held up as a model," said Deanne Healey, President & CEO, Peabody Area Chamber of Commerce.
"I was pleased to be one of many women business leaders today in Beverly as Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Congressman John Tierney gave a comprehensive overview of what they are doing in Washington and beyond to increase employment opportunities and improve working conditions for all women, but especially those on the North Shore," said Ann Ormond, President, Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce.
"I was honored to be invited to the forum and even happier to have the opportunity to discuss the issues affecting startups directly with Secretary Solis," said Martha Farmer, CEO of North Shore InnoVentures.
In 2010, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed into law, which restored some basic protections against pay discrimination. Congressman Tierney strongly supported that legislation, but believes more must be done. It has been 40 years since the passage of the Equal Pay Act, and women continue to be paid less for performing the same job as their male colleagues. On average, women earn just 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man.