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The Hill - Paving the Way for a New Generation of Women


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By Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.)

This March, as we celebrate Women's History Month, we recognize all of the women who have come before us to make this world a better place. We take time to reflect on the movement toward equality and look forward with hope toward the progress still to come.

Some rights, like a woman's right to vote, came through long, arduous, and at times, violent struggles. Others have come through quiet acts of courage, or from a few simple words sparking a revolution. We take time to remember the triumphs of those women who came before us, like Abigail Adams, Susan B. Anthony, and Jeanette Rankin.

The first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress, Rep. Jeanette Rankin stood by her convictions and was the only Member of Congress to vote against sending the U.S. into World War I and World War II. It wasn't the easy path, but it was what she felt to be right. She serves as a reminder to women in Congress today, still grappling with the angst of sending our American men and women, who are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, into battle to defend our freedom.

We teach our children about the brave women who've come before us, and talk about the courage it took to knock down barriers; the dogged determination that would not let them consider failure as an option; the struggles that made them all stronger and taught them more about themselves and made them the legacies they are today. Several decades ago, there was no one who came before them to show them the way. They had to be the ones to decide how to shatter the glass ceilings and make it possible for women after them to follow suit and break even more new ground. And we've still got work to do!

Women make up 51 percent of the American population, yet right here in our nation's Capital, we only make up 17 percent of Congress. We need more women from every background, of every political persuasion, making their voices heard on the issues that mean the most to women.

At a time when polarization is leading many of the headlines in Washington, it is more important than ever to discuss how women's voices can alter the tone of a conversation. Yet if we are the lone woman's voice at the policy table, how do we make sure it's heard? How do we make sure that a variety of women's viewpoints are represented? How can we work together to make our voices stronger?

In an effort to explore these questions and much more, this Thursday we will be joining with GlobalWIN to host a very special bipartisan panel of women in policy, media, and business to discuss what it is like to be a woman in the 21st century.

GlobalWIN is a nonprofit that provides a forum for women executives and thought leaders in academia, government, and business who work in innovation-driven fields such as technology, telecommunications, science, and aerospace to come together. They are dedicated to helping more women pursue and succeed in these fields.

In Southern Missouri, women are leading in science and technology. At our universities, women teach innovative and inspiring courses in every field. And Dr. Linda Godwin, from Jackson, Missouri, who has logged over 38 days in space as a NASA astronaut, is ever-present proof that all those tough science courses lead to limitless possibility.

And in Miami, Donna Shalala has been inspiring college students to pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics through her role as president of the University of Miami. In 2005, she led a national committee that published the report, Women in Science and Engineering: A Guide to Maximizing their Potential. Prior to helping UM become one of the top research universities in the country, she served as Secretary of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton for eight years. And in 2008, Shalala was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.
These women in our districts are leading by example, and setting new records to inspire the next generation of young women who will carry the torch of women's rights to new heights. We look forward to discussing the importance of voices like theirs, and so many others, at our panel discussion on Thursday.

Rep. Wasserman Schultz represents Florida's 20th Congressional district and Rep. Emerson represents Missouri's 8th Congressional District.

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