'Women Are Leading the Country Back,' Labor Secretary Says, But Still Need Gov’t Help

By Susan Jones | August 26, 2011 | 6:26 AM EDT

U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - "Not since the days of Rosie the Riveter have the contributions of women workers been more vital to our national prosperity," Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said in a statement marking "Women's Equality Day" -- which is Friday, for those of you who may have forgotten.

"Today, we are a country drawing down from two wars and recovering from another great financial crisis, and once again it is women who are leading this country back."

Solis mentioned that in the last 40 years, the number of women in the U.S. workforce has more than doubled, while the number of women getting college degrees has more than tripled. Nowadays, she noted, more working women have college degrees than men, while women-owned businesses are growing at four times the rate of businesses owned by men.

Despite such achievements, Solis said the government needs to do more for women -- but apparently not for the men whom women are surpassing.

"That's why the Labor Department is investing in workforce training for women to help America achieve a full economic recovery. And it's why we have placed a special emphasis on helping women advance in growing sectors like the clean energy economy, health care and information technology."

While women have accomplished much, "the fight for full equality endures," Solis said. Forty years after the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, women still make only 81 cents on the dollar compared with men, according to the Labor Department. "That's wrong," Solis said, adding that the Labor Department continues to support policies to combat pay discrimination.

"It's also why we are vigorously enforcing the Family and Medical Leave Act and promoting flexible workplace initiatives so women can balance the demands of work and home."

In 1971, Congress designated August 26 as “Women’s Equality Day” to commemorate passage (in 1920) of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

The White House, in President Obama's name, also issued a proclamation on Women's Equality Day, calling on Americans "to celebrate the achievements of women and recommit ourselves to the goal of gender equality in this country."

Solis, in her statement, admitted that women are moving closer to "true equality" every day. She noted that a record 17 members of the United States Senate are women, as are three Supreme Court justices,74 generals in the U.S. armed forces and seven Cabinet secretaries.

"The fact that the daughter of first-generation immigrants can become the U.S. Secretary of Labor is proof that women can accomplish anything in this great nation," she said.