The year 1975 was declared “International Women’s Year” and the decade following was the “UN Decade for Women.” The fact that women today, according to the American Association of University Women, still make only between 58% and 77% (white women at the top, Native American women at the bottom, black women earning 65.3%) of white men is not much comfort.

It will take over 200 years to “get even.” Former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Evelyn Murphy, an economist, calculated the lifetime of lost income to be around $1.5 million for women with a law or graduate degree, $1 million for women with a college degree, and $750,000 for women with a high school degree. Yes, we need pay equity and we need it sooner than 200 years.

But women’s unequal status adversely affects a broader array of life conditions including gender-based violence, human trafficking, discriminatory and harassing treatment in the workplace, health care, educational opportunities, and the well-being of those who depend in larger proportion on women’s care – children and the elderly.

CEDAW – the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women – is about addressing all of these problems, and since the UN adopted the convention in 1979, 196 countries out of 202 to whom it was opened for signature, have signed the treaty. The U.S. has not – along with South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, and Tonga and Palau. It’s embarrassing and harmful.

In 1998, cities in the U.S. began to adopt Cities for CEDAW ordinances and resolutions. In 2014 the U.S. Conference on Mayors unanimously endorsed the U.S. Cities Campaign. Some local and national organizations have begun gathering data on Bozeman and Montana, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Two-thirds of Montana families depend on women’s income. When women do better, we all do better.

Bozeman’s endorsement of CEDAW would not only give us the support of our local community in contribution to data gathering and problem-solving, it would increase public support nationwide for doing the same. Montana ranks 49th in Work and Family Composite Score, which includes paid leave, dependent and elder care and affordable child care according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in 2015. International, on a composite scale of political empowerment, the U.S. ranks 99th with Pakistan just above and Vietnam just below.

Why should we support a Cities for CEDAW Ordinance? Other city policies and laws prohibit specific acts of discrimination based on sex, like equal pay for equal work, gender-based violence, and the non-discrimination ordinance that protects LGBTQ city residents. But an ordinance based on CEDAW principles would comprehensively address women’s human rights because it focuses on ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls (treaty language) and includes a provision for monitoring progress. Adopting this ordinance will continue Montana’s tradition of history-making decisions that support women’s advancement and empowerment.

What would becoming a city for CEDAW do? Based on the recommendations of a city-appointed task force or commission addressing the status of women, gender equity or human rights, it would require completing a comprehensive intersectional gender analysis of the city’s policies, budget, and workforce with other demographic factors like race, ethnicity, age, ability, and sexual orientation. The task force can utilize grant-funded opportunities in support of this project and there are numerous potential collaborators in Montana, but this idea cannot move forward until a city ordinance is passed. This commission or task force appointed by the city commission would have diverse representation for accountability of process and to develop an action plan to redress areas of gender and other discrimination identified by the plan. And the action plan would be based on results from an inclusive — or intersectional — gender analysis with progress measured annually for up to five years or longer.

Let’s be leaders on these efforts. The breadth and extent to which girls’ and women’s are affected by a range of conditions that limit their ability to enjoy full security and fulfill their potential is increasingly coming to light. We can lead in our community, in our state and in our nation.

Franke Wilmer has been professor of political science at Montana State University since 1991, is currently serving as department head, and, served four terms in the Montana Legislature. She is a member of the Bozeman for CEDAW Initiative Steering Committee.