Fifty years ago this week, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in the East Room while surrounded by leaders of the women's rights movement. And on Monday, President Obama celebrated its 50th anniversary with a ceremony in the East Room, and we were lucky enough to be invited.
In front of a crowd filled with everyone from women's rights advocates to celebrities to Attorney General Eric Holder, President Obama gave an impassioned speech about how far we've come and how far we have to go on equal pay:
Just last week, a report confirmed what we already know: that women are increasingly the breadwinners for American families. Women are now the primary source of income for nearly 40 percent of American families… That's not something to panic about, or to be afraid about -– that's a sign of the progress and the strides that we've made. But what it does mean is that when more women are bringing home the bacon, they shouldn't just be getting a little bit of bacon.
While the bacon line got a good laugh from the crowd, the President raises an interesting point. Regardless of whether 40% or 4% of breadwinners are women, no woman should make less than she earns because of her gender, but the wage gap is even more ridiculous in today's world of Marissa Mayers and Sheryl Sandbergs.
Fortunately we can fix it. The President got one of the biggest cheers of the day when he mentioned the solution that's currently sitting in Congress:
As long as this gap persists, we're going to have more work to do. And now is the time to keep up the work that all those trailblazers started 50 years ago. Now is the time for Congress to step up and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act so women have better tools to fight for equal pay for equal work.
Despite the persistent wage gap, Monday's ceremony was a celebration of one of the landmark laws of the last century and, as the President put it, "the heroes who made that law possible." The men and women in the audience were fired up about the chance we have to right this historic wrong, and I'm confident that passion will continue for the next 50 years as we end the wage gap and make sure everyone brings home the bacon they've earned.
Want to do something about the wage gap? Ask Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.