This has been an historic year for women in the United States and women’s voices are being heard like never before.
A record 117 women were elected last November – among them, Jahana Hayes, the first African American woman to represent Connecticut in Congress. Here’s a look at what it means to her to be a part of history:
From the cover of Rolling Stone to “Women in White” at the State of the Union address, there’s a movement happening to get more female representation on Capitol Hill. Freshman Congresswoman Jahana Hayes, who’s also the first African American Congresswoman to be elected in Connecticut, is not only a part of that movement – she’s at the center of it.
“My race surprisingly gained national attention. There was this momentum, this surge,” Hayes says.
Women make up 50% of the population nationwide, and while they’re still not fully represented as such in the nation’s capitol, there’s an obvious shift in that direction.
The female representatives donned white at the State of the Union address to draw attention to the record number of women in office now. Some of them were featured on the cover of the news and entertainment magazine Rolling Stone.
“The best part about that was, I saw on social media, one of my students said, ‘My 10th grade teacher is on the cover of Rolling Stone,’ and then the chain started.”
Connecticut’s longest serving Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who’s been in office nearly 30 years, says joining Congress today as a woman is very different from when she started in 1991.
When I was elected to Congress there were 14 women. Now we’re looking at 131 women,” DeLauro says. “That is really exhilirating is to see women on the floor of the house, and even some of the senior women with young children. They’re there.”
Change is already happening to accommodate the growing number of moms moving into office space on capitol hill.
“One of the immediate changes was with the calendar. When the calendar was released, it was changed to reflect school openings, school closings so we’ll be on break during those weeks,” Hayes says.
Policy change geared toward women is on the agenda – equal pay for equal work, paid family leave, paid sick days.
“Many years ago, I was regarded as the crazy aunt in the attic by sponsoring these pieces of legislation and authoring them. Now, they are all the center. There’s a new prespective,” DeLauro says.
“In my committee, we just passed pay equity, gender pay equity out, sexual assault on college campuses we hear a lot about that,” Hayes says.
The new Congress may still taking shape, but it’s clear times are evolving and women not only have a voice in today’s society, they have a seat at the negotiating table
“I have so many young people, students, parents, grandparents reach out who say what this does for them. People have been at this their whole life to kind of see it happen. I don’t think I ever fully appreciated that until now,” Hayes says.
March is Women’s History Month, and News 8 is recognizing some of Connecticut’s most remarkable women.
We invite you to join us Saturday night for our special, ‘Celebrating Women.’ From lawmakers to business leaders, sports legends to pilots. We’ll be taking a look at trailblazers, past and present, who have forged a path and broken barriers for women everywhere.
Tune in this Saturday, March 23rd at 7 p.m. for ‘Celebrating Women’ on News 8.