In the midst of Women’s History Month, about a thousand women, and many men, gathered in Pittsburgh for the United Steelworkers International “Women of Steel” conference. The keynote was delivered by US Representative and head of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
She applauded recent efforts in Congress, including the passage of the Violence Against Women Act. But, Wasserman Schultz said there’s still a long road ahead for women.
“As leaders we must also encourage other women to step up to positions of leadership and fight to elect more women to public office, including Congress, especially Congress,” the Florida Congresswoman said.
Wasserman Schultz pointed out that in the history of the United States 296 women have served in Congress, compared to more than 12,000 men, and told the crowd, "sisters, we have some serious catching up to do." She said the current makeup up of Congress is a sort of good news/bad news situation.
“We have a historic number of women in Congress right now, but we’re still only 17 percent, and we’ve been stuck at 17 percent,” she said, “we did reverse the trend from 2010 where we saw for the first time, we lost women. We went down in the number of women for the first time since 1982, but we came roaring back in 2012.”
Wasserman Schultz said the reason more women are needed in elected office is because they have a different perspective to offer. She added, issues that matter most to women will not be prioritized in the same way “if all the leading voices are men.”
Over the years, Wasserman Schultz said she has experienced challenges due more to her relative youth rather than her gender, especially within the Democratic Party, but she said that there are definite challenges relating to gender. “It hasn’t been a bed of roses, it’s getting a little easier, but we’ve still got a ways to go,” said Wasserman Schultz, and added, “we need women who understand that the glass ceiling still exists for us in the workplace and in every aspect of our lives and are committed to helping us shatter it once and for all.”
The Women of Steel conference is held every three years, and this year it has drawn hundreds of women from around the world. The conference focuses on enhancement of skills, global solidarity and examining ways to strengthen the labor movement.