The world I grew up in as a girl was far different than the world we live in today.
The thought of becoming a successful attorney, or holding public office, was not as tangible for little girls when I was growing up as it is today. To this day, I operate in worlds that are largely dominated by men, both as a lawyer and as an Assemblywoman.
But through the support of my loving family and later my incredible husband, I overcame the gender stereotypes that society expected me to conform to and a forged a new path for myself — one that felt true to me and not ascribed to me by gender norms or external expectations. I developed a successful law practice, I won a seat in the General Assembly in a stunning upset, and I did it all while raising two daughters.
It wasn’t always an easy journey. There are only so many obstacles a person can climb before they become exhausted. But just when the challenges felt as though they were too much to handle, I thought back to the two people that inspire and motivate me no matter how hard of a day I have had: my daughters.
I am the mother of two inspiring, independent, incredible girls. At 7 and 8.5 years old, they know only how to be their true, pure, unfiltered selves. They dream big and chase those dreams relentlessly. They love superheroes and playing sports. They are fiercely independent and so confident in the little beings that they are. I pray every day that they never lose that.
Our society and culture has steadily evolved since I was a child. It is now far more common for a little girl to dream of becoming a doctor or a lawyer or President of the United States. Those dreams are far more attainable too. But there are still so many obstacles that remain.
The very existence of a gender wage gap is indicative of how much progress has yet to be made. Women in New Jersey still, in 2018, earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by a man. In April, our governor signed into law a groundbreaking bill ensuring women are paid equally for equal work – a huge victory in the fight for gender equality. I was proud to sign on as a champion of this bill, which set New Jersey on a solid course to equality and is now considered the gold standard of equal pay legislation. But the fight can’t stop there.
I dream of a world where the very thought of gender inequality seems archaic and illogical, a world where my daughters will be valued for their skill, their intelligence and their merit at the same rate as their male counterparts. I hope that my daughters never feel limited by their gender, but rather empowered and inspired to forge their own paths as well. I hope they keep the fiery independence, confidence and zest for life that they have now and carry it into their lives as women, never feeling the need to hide their fire because they are women. I hope they continue to inspire others as they inspire me every day, and I hope they never have to worry about breaking a glass ceiling, but soar ever higher into the sky.
I chose to run for office to help build this better world for my daughters and to finally reach true equality for all women. This Women’s Equality Day, I am reminded of that commitment and re-energized to work towards that goal. To my daughters, and to every woman here in New Jersey, happy Women’s Equality Day!