Women of Congress Focus on Jobs, Healthcare

Women’s greatest challenge now is the economy.

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By Jessica Rettig, Washington Whispers 

Girl power was surging at Union Station on Wednesday evening as about 400 guests gathered for Women's Policy Inc.'s 2010 Congressional Gala. The event, which celebrated members of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues, raised money for the women's advocacy organization. After a packed reception, dinner (a shiitake mushroom and asparagus salad and salmon with gnocchi) was served, and caucus leaders took the stage to tell about the work being done by women on Capitol Hill for women around the world. 

The biggest issue for American women now is the economy, according to Illinois Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who is the caucus cochair. She says that the economic downturn has been seen as a "male recession," but congresswomen are trying to change that because, she said, women are the ones feeling the pinch. Women, who generally make lower wages than men, are more likely than men to be single parents and also are more likely to need costly child care, Schakowsky says. "When we talked about the recovery act, we wanted to make sure that when we talk about 'shovel ready'—people picture a man behind a shovel—but we wanted to make sure that jobs for women were included," she said. According to Schakowsky, the administration estimates that about 48 percent of jobs from the recovery act are women-appropriate. 

Healthcare is another major issue for women, says Schakowsky. Maternity is included in only about 13 percent of policies in the individual market, and for many, pregnancy is considered a pre-existing condition for insurance, she says. The women's caucus wants to end gender rating and gender discrimination in health; according to the cochair, the present healthcare bill would do that. 

Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin, Maryland Rep. Donna Edwards, Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, and New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, all Democrats, were among the women who spoke about other women's issues, including dieting among young teens, domestic violence, dropout prevention, and international women's issues like as sex trafficking. 

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