Hi, everybody. On Friday, I had a discussion with working women in Rhode Island about the economic challenges they face in their own lives, challenges shared by many of you.
Thanks to the work we've all put in, our economy has come a long way these past 6 years. Over the past 55 months, our businesses have added 10.3 million new jobs. For the first time in 6 years, the unemployment rate is below 6 percent. And on Thursday, we learned that over the past 6 months, our economy has grown at its fastest pace since 2003.
But the gains of a growing economy aren't yet felt by everyone. So we've got to harness this momentum and make the right choices so that everyone who works hard can get ahead.
In recent weeks, I've talked about these choices, from raising the minimum wage to creating new jobs in construction and manufacturing. Today I want to focus on what I discussed with those women: the choices we need to make to help more women get ahead in today's economy.
Right now women make up almost half of our workers. More women are their family's main breadwinner than ever before. So the simple truth is, when women succeed, America succeeds. And we should be choosing policies that benefit women, because that benefits all of us.
Women deserve fair pay. Even though it's 2014, there are women still earning less than men for doing the same work. We don't have second-class citizens in this country; we shouldn't in the workplace either. So let's make sure women earn equal pay for equal work and have a fair shot at success.
Women deserve to be able to take time off to care for a new baby, an ailing parent, or take a sick day for themselves without running into hardship. So let's make sure all Americans have access to paid family leave.
Pregnant workers deserve to be treated fairly. Even today, women can be fired for taking too many bathroom breaks or forced on unpaid leave just for being pregnant. That's wrong, and we have to choose policies that ensure pregnant workers are treated with dignity and respect.
New parents deserve quality, affordable childcare. There's nothing like the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your kids are safe while you're at work. And the benefits that children get out of early enrichment can pay off for a lifetime. But in many States, sending your kid to daycare costs more than sending them to a public university. So let's start demanding pre-K for our kids.
And when most low-wage workers are women, but Congress hasn't passed a minimum wage increase in 7 years, it's long past time that women deserve a raise. About 28 million workers would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and more than half of those workers are women. The local businesses where these workers spend their money would benefit too. So let's do this. Let's give America a raise. All of these policies are common sense. All of them are within our reach. We've just got to speak up and choose them, because they'll build a stronger America for all of us.
Thanks, and have a great weekend.