White House staffers are preparing for President Obama's last State of the Union speech Tuesday, and it's a great opportunity to reflect on what can still be accomplished in the final year of his presidency. Gun control and mental health issues will undoubtedly come up, given Obama's big speech from the White House last Tuesday, and climate change will most likely get a section as well. But there's one incredibly important feminist issue that Obama needs to address in his last SOTU speech: the pervasive wage gap that affects American women.
Theoretically, equal pay for equal work should be the simplest concept ever. Women and men of all races and ethnicities should be paid the same amount of money for doing the same work, without question or criticism. There is absolutely no justifiable reason that Latina women make 54 cents on the dollar compared to white men — or that women with college degrees make 45 percent less money over their careers than men with equivalent education. Yet despite the painfully obvious injustice, the gap has persisted through the years, and women still do not have guaranteed pay equity. Now is the time for President Obama to defeat this institutional sexism, and see that women are finally granted wage equality.
This was a hot issue in 2015. Patricia Arquette spoke out about wage inequality in her Oscar acceptance speech, and Jennifer Lawrence penned an inspiring, honest essay for Lenny about how women are socially conditioned not to negotiate and stand up for themselves. That type of celebrity attention for a specific issue is the perfect springboard for Obama to strongly and unequivocally support pay equality during the State of the Union.
Furthermore, wage equality is totally achievable, and already in progress. The Paycheck Fairness Act was introduced in Congress three years ago, and is currently sitting in committee. At any time, the bill could move to the Senate floor for a vote. If Obama were to bring up the need for legislation on the wage gap during the State of the Union, it would bring huge attention to the issue and put serious pressure on Congress to take action. It's exactly the kind of quick, slam-dunk success that Obama needs to achieve significant, meaningful change. Obama's last year in office should be an extraordinary one, and finally ending the wage discrimination against women in America would certainly qualify as extraordinary. Going into his final year, it's time for him to make a strong, determined push for equality for American women.