California women are earning 84 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Childcare for an infant costs $12,000 annually. And 47 percent of hourly workers find out their schedules one week or less in advance.
Democrats in the California Legislative Women's Caucus say these are some of the most pressing problems facing women in the state – and they're looking to fix them with a comprehensive package of bills.
The effort is called "A Stronger California: Securing Economic Opportunity for All Women." It encompasses more than 20 bills and budget actions, including an effort to increase child care spending by $600 million.
With the recession in the rear-view mirror, Women's Caucus Chair and State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, says now is the time to invest in these issues.
"We are catching our breath after an economic downturn that took place over several years resulting in Draconian cuts in our budget to assist women and make sure equality of opportunity exists," Jackson said.
None of the bills discussed Tuesday were new to the Legislature, but advocates said the collaborative effort to tackle women's economic issues from a number of angles was groundbreaking.
"This is a really historic moment that is the culmination of decades of work by advocates and legislators really being thoughtful about what economic security means in this state," Equality Rights Advocates executive director Noreen Farrell said. "It brings together child care advocates, poverty advocates, workplace fairness advocates all together to say, we need all of these things if we are going to have economically secure women and families in California."
The bill package is broken into four categories: Ensuring equal pay and job opportunities, providing access to affordable child care, instituting family-friendly workplace policies, and reducing poverty to build economic stability.
The top priority bills are the California Fair Pay Act, which would provide equal pay for equal work and protect workers from retaliation, the Raising Child-Care Quality and Accessibility Act, which creates new affordable child care slots and gives child care workers the right to collective bargaining, the Fair Scheduling Act, which would ensure work schedule predictability, and the Repeal CalWORKs Maximum Family Grant, which would eliminate state law that caps government aid for families in poverty.
While the Democrats in the Women's Caucus will need to gain bipartisan support for these efforts, Jackson said she was optimistic about the prospect.
"We represent a very significant number of the membership in both Houses, and we're committed to making sure these bills will pass and be signed into law," she said. "This is a coordinated, collaborative effort among the members of this Caucus whose presence in numbers will result, we anticipate, in some very powerful statements and successful actions as a result."