Women’s Equality Day: In government, much to celebrate, much to accomplish

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This past weekend was historic for Washington, as thousands flocked to the nation’s capital to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

After a weekend of remembering the march that sparked a series of legislative reforms for civil rights, there is another historic milestone to remember—Women’s Equality Day. It commemorates the historic day 93 years ago when the 19th amendment — which grants women the right to vote — was certified.

It has been a busy year for advancement of women’s rights in the U.S. President Barack Obama signed a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and earlier this year the Defense Department announced it would remove barriers preventing women in the armed forces from serving in combat.

Monday, the president proclaimed Women’s Equality Day, and called on the people of the U.S. to celebrate the achievements of women and promote gender equality.

“A fair deal for women is essential to a thriving middle class, but while women graduate college at higher rates than men, they still make less money after graduation and often have fewer opportunities to enter well-paid occupations or receive promotions,” the White House said in a release. “On average, women are paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to men.”

The U.S. places 98th in a world ranking of the percentage of women in a national legislature — far behind countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Uganda, regions long known for lacking in gender equality. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, women hold 17.9 percent of seats in the House of Representatives, and 20 percent of seats in the Senate. In statewide government positions, women hold 74 of the 320 positions, or 23.1 percent.

“Our mission is to develop policies and standards to safeguard the interests of working women, to advocate for their equality and economic security, and to promote quality work environments,” Latifa Lyles, acting director of the Labor Department’s Women’s Bureau, said in a blog post. In today’s economy, with the majority  of U.S. households relying on women’s wages to pay the bills, this mission is more important than ever.”

The federal government has been steadily promoting gender equality. In May, Obama issued an executive order calling on federal agencies to be a model for equal pay and to review their pay and promotion policies.

Phyllis Kolmus, president of Women in Technology, a professional association for women in the technology industry, said women’s equality in the workplace remains an important topic of conversation for a good reason.

“The technology industry was in such a state of growth that there were not a lot of rules, making it a great place for women to break out of a societal vision where women were nurses and teachers,” Kolmus told FedScoop. “What we did not take into account so well, and still don’t, is balancing our sense of responsibility for family and household while still fulfilling demand jobs in the workplace. Women have to make choices that men generally do not have to make, and those choices impact their careers.”

Organizations such as Women in Technology provide resources for women working in the space and create a network. Another example is Tech LadyMafia, founded by Aminatou Sow and Erie Meyer to empower women working in technology all over the world. This group, which started out as a 40-person Listserv, now boasts a mailing list of more than 700 women.

Members of Congress and several federal agencies took to social media to celebrate the historic day. Here is a look at what they had to say:

Happy #WomensEqualityDay, commemorating 93 years of women’s suffrage. pic.twitter.com/I8VrGDtI0P

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Agencies, Applications & Software, Congress, Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Labor, Departments, Government IT News, House of Representatives, Kirsten Gillibrand, Nancy Pelosi, President Obama, Senate, Social Media, Social Security Administration, Tech, U.S. Geological Survey, White House
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