U.S. Senator Kirstin Gillibrand appeared as the keynote speaker at the National Association of Commissions for Women 47th Annual Conference and Empowerment Summit at the Hyatt in Buffalo Friday.
Gillibrand said despite winning the Right to Vote nearly 100-years ago, women and girls still face many challenges including equal pay, and paid family leave.
"If you have a new baby, if your mother or father is dying, if your spouse is ill, if a family member is ill, you don't have the flexibility necessarily to meet those family needs. And for a lot of people they are making those horrible choices of, 'Do I stay at work and earn the money I need to feed my family? Or do I quit my job to meet the need and give the care that's needed in our family?," stated Gillbrand.
Gillibrand said affordable day care would also make a difference. The average cost across the state she said is $10,000.
"So if you're a minimum wage earner, whose only earning 15,00 you cant afford any quality day care in your area - you will have to rely on informal care. If that caregiver is sick and you miss work, you may well be fired, because you don't have any sick days and you don't have any vacation days - that's the reality that women face all across our state and all across the country," Gillbrand remarked.
Gillibrand, a Hudson Valley Democrat, points out the United States is the only industrialized country in the world that doesn't have paid leave.
Gillbrand said women need to fight for issues that will allow them to reach their full economic potential. Until then she said "this country will never reach its potential."
Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul also appeared as a speaker at Friday's women's conference. Hochul spoke about the "common purpose" of bettering the lives of other women.
"It's as simple as that," said Hochul. "Nobody understands what we go through more than each other. We know what it's like. There is a special bond - a sense that we owe it to each other. I think a lot of people have a difference perception that women figure out the secret sauce of success in their field, then they kind of close the door and they don't want to share the recipe - that is so false - I think that's what people want to think because they get nervous when we get together and start plotting - they should get nervous."