EVERY YEAR since 1987, Congress has designated the month of March to celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of women and to learn about the long road to gender equality paved by the courageous women who came before us. Women continue to break glass ceilings in all areas of life. Consider the amazing achievements of women in the last year:
* Janet Yellen became the first woman to serve as the Chair of the Federal Reserve Board in its 102-year history.
* Last summer, it took a 13-year-old woman from Philadelphia to teach the world that girls can throw just as well as boys. In fact, they can throw better! Mo'Ne Davis became the first girl to pitch a shutout game in the 70-year history of the Little League World Series.
* Seventeen-year-old education activist Malala Yousafzai was shot by a Taliban gunman because she believed that all girls have a right to education. She survived. She did not give up, and she won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts.
* On television, a woman reigns as the "Queen of the Small Screen." Shonda Rimes produces ABC's entire Thursday night lineup and dominates the ratings.
* Chart-topper Taylor Swift broke records when her album "1989" sold more than 1.2 million copies. During the first week of sales, 22 percent of all albums sold in the United States were hers.
* A total of 104 women will serve in Congress this term, with a record 84 women in the House of Representatives.
Finally, as a former teacher, I am pleased to report that when it comes to higher education, there is indeed a gender gap: 61 percent of male high school graduates are attending college, while 71 percent of women are pursuing higher education.
We are so proud of all of these victories for women!
And yet, in 2015, women continue to earn 78 cents for each dollar earned by our male colleagues. In 1976 women occupied approximately 5 percent of Fortune 500 board seats. In 2011, the number has grown to 16 percent. If we continue to grow at the same pace, we will reach gender equality when my 18-year-old daughter is 75 years old.
Despite representing 52.8 percent of the city's population, women occupy only 11 percent of corporate board seats in Philadelphia, and women of color represent less than 1 percent. These numbers have been stagnant for decades, and it is time to pursue more aggressive change.
This May, we will have the opportunity to make that change by establishing a Commission for Women, offering women and girls a permanent seat at the table of City government and creating pathways of leadership and equal employment opportunities. The commission would be chaired by an executive director and consist of 27 members: 10 appointed by the mayor and one appointed by each member of City Council.
The commission would be charged with promoting civic, educational and economic policies for women, and with providing advice and recommendations to the mayor and city council on policies and programs that advance equal rights for women and opportunities for girls. We also expect members to forge meaningful working partnerships for women in city government, the business community and our nonprofit sector.
Thirty-one major American cities currently have commissions on women, including New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Atlanta, Seattle, San Francisco and Alexandria, Va. They assist their local governments to create resources and solutions for issues affecting women and children, including but not limited to human trafficking, domestic violence, pay equity and discrimination. As a world-class city, where "liberty and justice for all" was born, Philadelphia should not only have a Commission for Women; we should have the flagship Commission for Women, and be considered a national thought leader on the topic of gender equality.
This is a historic opportunity to bring women to the table of city government in an official leadership capacity. Pause for a moment to think of the women who paved the way before us, such as Ernesta Ballard, Edwina Baker, C. Delores Tucker, Augusta Clark, Onah Weldon, Happy Fernandez and countless others. We are standing on their shoulders. Think of how we as a city can encourage and grow the next generation of future women leaders.
There are so many women and girls in Philadelphia who have not had the opportunity to set records. Our city government has a unique opportunity to change the paradigm for young women and the trajectory for our girls.
I encourage all Philadelphians to seize the moment to establish a Commission on Women so that we can prepare our daughters to shoot for the moon and beyond.