Times have changed. More than ever, women play central roles in our families, are leaders in the workplace and are driving our whole economy. Unfortunately, even with this progress, our policymakers haven’t kept up with the changing times. Whether it’s extreme attacks on women’s health care or backing unfair workplace policies that perpetuate the wage gap, we know that the deck is still stacked against Maine women.

In Maine, like every other state in the country, women are paid less than men. The average median income for women in Maine is just $36,000, only about 84 percent of what their male counterparts earn. The gap in earnings is even wider for black and Latina women.

Maine women lack guaranteed access to earned sick days or paid leave to care for their families, lack real protection against pregnancy discrimination on the job and often aren’t able to access affordable child care so they can earn a living for their families and contribute to the economy.

Gridlock in Washington, D.C., and even here in Augusta has meant that, more often than not, we are looking to our local elected officials to lead on the issues that matter most to women. Maine’s largest city, and the state’s chief economic driver, has the opportunity to be a leader on these issues, but only if our elected officials are willing to stand with Maine women to build a city that is a model for Maine and the nation.

Portland is a vibrant and diverse city, and our city government should reflect that. Currently only one woman, one person of color and zero openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people sit on the Portland City Council, and only a handful hold leadership positions at City Hall, which is not representative of our diverse population. How will Portland’s mayor make sure women and people from underrepresented communities have a seat at the table?

Cities across the country are taking proactive steps to make sure women can participate fully in the economy. To take just one example of that growing national momentum, the city of Pittsburgh just passed an ordinance requiring large businesses to offer paid sick days to their employees.

In Maine, it’s estimated that more than 40 percent of workers can’t earn paid sick days – the majority of whom are women working low-wage jobs. No one should ever be put in the position of having to choose between their job and caring for their kids. Will the next mayor of Portland fight for basic workplace protections for women who simply want to be equal partners in the new economy?

In Maine, 70 percent of minimum-wage workers are women – the sixth highest in the nation. Portland already demonstrated leading on this issue when it became the first city in the Northeast to increase its minimum wage to $10.10 an hour when it voted in September.

However, the council chose to set the base for workers who earn tips at the state rate of $3.75 an hour, even though tipped workers are among the lowest-wage workers in Maine – and in Portland, they make a median wage of just $8.77 an hour, including tips. The majority of workers earning tips are women, and the poverty rate for tipped restaurant workers in Maine is three times higher than the rest of the population. What will Portland’s mayor do to move tipped workers out of poverty?

Issues like these are critical to women in Portland and across the state and Maine women are not content with watching from the sidelines. We are ready for action now.

That’s why we’re hosting the Maine Women Speak Up! Portland mayoral forum Oct. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the University of Southern Maine. This will be a chance to hear from the candidates for mayor about where they stand on important issues affecting women and what their priorities will be for the city for the next four years.

Standing with Maine women means supporting health care policies that give women the freedom to decide if and when to have a child, and protecting a woman’s right to access the health care they need without intimidation or harassment.

It means dismantling unfair wage laws that perpetuate the wage gap, like the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers. It means investing in affordable child care, education, job training and retirement security so that women can participate fully in the economy. Are Portland’s mayoral candidates ready for the task? Join us Oct. 20 to find out.