Though the government shutdown is over and the threat of default has passed (for now), Congress remains wildly unpopular; many doubt that our elected representatives are as concerned with making the country work for ordinary Americans as they are with scoring political points. It doesn’t help that the latest jobs numbers show an economic recovery that is still painfully slow and leaving large numbers of people behind.

But all is not lost. Some Members of Congress are calling attention to the legislative steps that are needed to spur a strong, shared recovery – and recognizing the critical role of women in driving the economy forward. For example, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is championing a new economic agenda for women and families (titled “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds”), which includes measures to improve pay, combat employment discrimination, help workers balance their jobs and family responsibilities, and expand access to high-quality, affordable child care. And on the Senate side, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) recently unveiled her “American Opportunity Agenda,” which aims to help families achieve economic security through five key policy solutions:

  1. Providing paid family and medical leave through a new fund to which both employees and employers would contribute, modeled after successful state programs in New Jersey and California.
  2. Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, raising the minimum cash wage for tipped workers to 70 percent of the minimum wage, and indexing both wages to keep pace with inflation, as proposed by the Fair Minimum Wage Act.
  3. Providing universal pre-K through a new federal-state partnership that would boost the number of high quality early childhood educators and take additional steps to improve the quality of education programs serving young children and expand access to those programs.
  4. Making quality, affordable child care accessible by expanding tax credits and deductions that help families pay for child care and creating new incentives for college graduates to enter the child care field.
  5. Helping women secure equal pay for equal work by enacting the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would give workers stronger tools to combat wage discrimination, ban retaliation against workers for discussing salary information, and ensure full compensation for women who experience pay discrimination.

The measures outlined in Senator Gillibrand’s agenda would benefit millions of Americans – especially women, who make up two-thirds of minimum wage workers, face a persistent wage gap, and often struggle to balance pregnancy and caregiving responsibilities with inflexible workplace demands. I hope many more of her colleagues will view the months ahead as an opportunity to make real progress for women, families, and the economy.

Here at NWLC, we work every day to advance a wide range of policies that help women achieve economic security for themselves and their families. To learn more about what our leaders in Washington – and you – can do to help, take a look at our resources on the topics below:

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