Yesterday was International Women's Day, a day that was originally created to celebrate women's economic, political and social achievements. And, since the very first International Women's Day was celebrated in 1910, women have made tremendous strides when it comes to political, economic, and social power.
Just ask the all-female crew that was on an Air France flight from Paris to Washington today on an Airbus 380, the world's largest commercial airplane. Just decades ago, the thought of an all-female crew piloting a transatlantic flight on the world's biggest airplane would have been inconceivable.
Unfortunately, while women have made great strides across the globe and right here in the United States, there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done.
According to a new report from the Institute for Women's Policy research, the pay gap here in the United States between men and women increased between 2011 and 2012, with women making, on average, $163 less per week than men.
The wage gap between women and men exists for high-paying jobs as well, and women are also significantly more likely to work in minimum-wage paying jobs. There is such a large disparity in the wage gap, that a woman's total lifetime earnings lost to the wage gap could feed a family of four for 37 years.
This increase in the wage gap is despite the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, which allows individuals who face pay discrimination to seek restitution under federal anti-discrimination laws.
So, we have a lot of work to do when it comes to ensuring women have equal rights and equal power in our country. And that's work we need to do, because men alone are not all that good for the world. We need both of us. As women get on equal footing with men, all society prospers.
For example, if female participation in the workforce increased, it would do wonders for our economy. According to a study by Booz and Company, if the female employment rate in the U.S. simply matched male rates, the nation's overall GDP would rise by 5 percent.
Even corporations would benefit from empowered women. One of the biggest problems with women in the workforce today is that women aren't getting top positions in companies.
In fact, 36 percent of U.S. companies currently don't have even one single woman on their board of directors. However, various studies suggest that gender-mixed leadership actually helps companies boost their profits.
One study of similarly-sized businesses showed that those with women on their boards actually outperformed those with only men.
What if we encouraged more women to be involved with politics? Right now, women make up just about 20 percent of lawmakers in the United States and abroad.
When women aren't outnumbered by men in political office, like they are in Washington, they tend to speak up more about issues affecting the poor and vulnerable, like protecting the social safety net.
Research even shows a strong correlation between the number of female elected officials in government and less corruption of power. There's a positive effect on government when women break into the so-called "old boy's club".
But what about that growing wage gap? What would happen if we brought the gap down, and did more to make sure that women earned the same as men? The average pay disparity between a man and a woman in the United States is .77 cents on the dollar right, and as I mentioned earlier, they make on average $163 less than men each week.
That's bad news, considering that women are increasingly the primary breadwinners in their families. This means that, as more and more women become primary breadwinners, their pay becomes vital for the survival of their families, and less pay means that survival is in jeopardy.
The level of pay for women isn't just important for their families. It's also important for our nation. Economists suggest that closing the gender pay gap would be the equivalent of a giant economic stimulus, which could grow the U.S. economy by three to four percentage points.
It's clear that women can do amazing things for our country – from boosting our economy to rooting out corruption in government.
So much debate right now in America about female empowerment center's around women's health. And – while a woman's right to make her own health decisions is essential – female empowerment shouldn't stop there.
Women need greater access to a quality education. And an identical opportunity to succeed in the workplace as men. And in politics and in government.
Women have come a long way since the first International Women's Day in 1910, a time when they couldn't even vote in the United States and, in some states, were still legally the property of their husbands.
But now is not the time to take a "good enough" approach when it comes to female empowerment in our country.
Women can help save our culture, our country and even our planet. It's time for men to get out of the way. For the good of all of us.