New York, NY – Today, Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden hosted U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s 2013 “Women’s Economic Empowerment Summit” at New York University’s Rosenthal Pavilion to discuss the need to modernize the nation’s outdated workplace rules and empower families to ensure more middle class women workers have a fair shot at earning financial security and help lead in the new economy. The fabric of the American workforce has changed over the past several decades with the increased participation of women – there are more dual income households than ever before and 40 percent of women with children at home serving as sole breadwinners. Federal policies, however, have yet to keep pace with the needs of the modern workforce and middle class families.
Earlier this fall, Gillibrand unveiled five common-sense solutions as part of her “American Opportunity Agenda” that would create paid family medical leave, increase the minimum wage, make quality affordable child care accessible, provide universal pre-k, and ensure equal pay for equal work. Dozens of high-powered women leaders today shared their own insights into workplace challenges and discussed how Gillibrand’s new agenda will give women a chance to achieve their full financial potential and succeed at work to strengthen our families and help businesses compete.
“The face of the American workforce has changed dramatically with the increased participation of women,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The key to a growing economy – the key to a thriving American middle class in the 21st century – is women. This summit focuses on equipping more working women with the opportunities to achieve their best in the economy and their best for their family. My five long overdue solutions to modernize the American workplace with policies that empower women and families will give women a chance to earn their way ahead in the economy and achieve their full financial potential.”
In front of an audience of more than 350 women, including NYU students and professional women of all ages and backgrounds, the Senator’s summit kicked off with an opening keynote conversation with tennis legend and women’s rights pioneer Billie Jean King and Catalyst President and CEO Ilene Lang. The keynote was followed by a lively panel discussion moderated by MSNBC’s Karen Finney with Glamour Magazine Editor-in-Chief Cindi Leive, Nickelodeon Group President Cyma Zarghami, Carol’s Daughter Founder Lisa Price, Working Mother Media President Carol Evans, and El Diario/La Prensa Publisher Emeritus Rossana Rosado.
Ten influential women leaders participated in two breakout “ solution sessions” for attendees and women at every stage of their career. Women leaders including Goldman Sachs Global Head of Human Capital Management Edith Cooper, Catalyst President and CEO Ilene Lang, MSNBC Host Karen Finney, SoulCycle Co-Founder Elizabeth Cutler, and Google VP of Global Accounts & Agencies Eileen Naughton led a session titled “Elevating Women in the Workforce: Ensuring Financial Stability for All Americans” where they shared their experiences and talked about supporting women who are leading the way in the global marketplace through federal policy changes including equal pay, minimum wage, and paid Family Medical Leave.
Avon Senior VP of Corporate Relations and Chief Communications Officer Cheryl Heinonen, Founder and CEO of the Pipeline Fellowship Natalia Oberti Noguera, Executive Director and CEO of MomsRising.org Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, ESSENCE Magazine Senior Editor Tanisha Sykes, and Univision Communications Inc. Executive Vice President of Corporate Marketing Ruth Gaviria engaged in a session titled “Overcoming Barriers: Supporting Breadwinning Women and their Families” helping women balance workplace demands with needs of their families through federal policy reform.
In 2011, Gillibrand’s first summit at NYU engaged women in a conversation on the critical role women play in the economic recovery and the knowledge and skill set women need to reach their career aspirations.
Gillibrand’s American Opportunity Agenda
1. Paid Family and Medical Leave
Gillibrand’s FAMILY Act would provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of partial income when they take time away from their jobs for their own serious health condition, including pregnancy or childbirth; the serious health condition of a child; the injury of a family member who is in the military or exigencies arising from a service member’s deployment. The program would be administered through a new office of Paid Family Medical Leave within the Social Security Administration. This trust would be funded by employee and employer contributions of 0.2 percent of wages each, creating a self-sufficient program that would not add to the federal budget.
2. Increase the Minimum Wage
The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 would increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 over the next three years, with future increases indexed to the rate of inflation. It would also raise the minimum wage for tipped workers for the first time in more than 20 years.
3. Provide Universal Pre-K
The Strong Start for America’s Children Act is a bold, 10-year innovative federal-state partnership to expand and improve early learning opportunities for children across the birth-to-age-five continuum. This legislation will help more children arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed by funding a 10 year early childhood education initiative to expand early learning opportunities for children up to age 5. The Strong Start Act would expand early education by helping accelerate efforts at the state level to provide high-quality preschool to low and moderate income families and encourage local partnerships to increase the quality of infant and toddler care.
4. Make Quality Affordable Childcare Accessible
Gillibrand is championing a comprehensive solution to increase the availability, affordability and quality of child care. Her plan would provide tax cuts to help pay for child care, incentivize businesses to offer child care or allow more parents to work from home, and expand access to programs that help families afford child care.
5. Equal Pay for Equal Work
The Paycheck Fairness Act would close loopholes employers can use to shortchange workers, hold big corporations accountable for pay inequity, make it easier for workers to pursue back pay, and empower working women to be appropriately and accurately compensated for their work and value.