One year ago, on February 1, 2012, the Senate of Virginia passed a backwards and extreme law to mandate invasive ultrasounds for women prior to an abortion.
On that same day, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and I announced an initiative to close the gender pay gap by empowering women and minorities to use information to fight for equal pay.
These two actions present a stark contrast for Virginia’s future. The Republicans in Richmond have focused on divisive social issues that hurt Virginia’s ability to maintain and attract the talent we need to create a successful 21st century economy. Instead, I believe we need leaders who will work to create inclusive communities and an equal playing field so that we can tap into the expertise of Virginians in all corners of the commonwealth, regardless of hometown, race, or gender, to create an economy that is built to last.
The fight for equal pay is one that hits close to home for me. A few years ago, my wife had to deal directly with learning that she was being paid less than a man who was doing the same job with the same level of experience. I remember thinking my wife is brilliant and hard working - how could this happen? Seeing her struggle to piece together the information needed to renegotiate her salary was painful but motivated me to take action.
That is why last year we launched a challenge with the goal of building new tools to help women and minorities get the information they need to negotiate better salaries - bringing us one step closer to equal pay for equal work. Unfortunately in Virginia, even today, women make 79 cents for every dollar a man makes working a full time job. We clearly still have work to do.
And that is why I was so disappointed and embarrassed with what happened in Richmond. Thinking back on all the progress we have made on women’s rights and how much work we have left to do, it’s so disheartening to have Republicans in Richmond take us backwards 50 years in less than a month.
These issues are personally important to my family and me. I have two young daughters who deserve to grow up in a Virginia where they have the right to make their own reproductive health care decisions and where they can enter the workforce with the assurance of equal pay for equal work. At the core of our belief as Democrats is the hope that our children, the next generation, will have the chance at a better life than our own. As Lieutenant Governor, that is exactly what I will be fighting for.