There has been a great deal of attention paid to women’s issues recently. I have always been a women’s rights advocate, although it took me until middle age to realize it.

I have volunteered at various agencies throughout my life. Along with my husband, I am a member of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Niagara. I feel that my personal religion is based on service to others. I am proud to be involved with such great organizations as Roswell Park, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, Niagara County Home Delivered Meals, Niagara Area Foundation and Niagara Area Habitat for Humanity.

I am also a proud volunteer for Planned Parenthood of Western New York. I have seen a great many changes over the last several decades. For a time, I served as an escort helping women seeking access to health care. More than 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services are preventive: life-saving cancer screenings, breast health services, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, birth control and more.

Planned Parenthood is a leader in educating against unintended pregnancies. But no matter what services women were seeking, they were yelled at by protesters. And though I was just there to help women, I was told to “get a life!” Well, this is life. If I could help at all, I wanted to be there to help relieve some of the stress the women were experiencing from strangers shouting at them.

While today many things have changed for women, too much still remains the same. I am reminded of the common double standards that women continue to face. A man can be seen as firm, while a woman is stubborn; a man is careful about details, while a woman is picky; a man follows through, while a woman doesn’t know when to quit; a man isn’t afraid to say what he thinks, while a woman is opinionated. Things still are not equal. Barriers remain.

Are things better today? More equal? Certainly I have seen in the next generation a more equal distribution within the family of jobs connected with child-rearing and housework. I have seen women enter non-traditional careers and rise up the ranks. And we have all read about women who break through the glass ceiling. Now we need to make that commonplace, so it isn’t such a big event.

Women need to feel comfortable making mistakes and learning from them; of knowing their personal preferences make up their personalities and shouldn’t be used against them or bring them shame. Women need to be treated equally in all aspects of life.

I believe that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s original 10-point Women’s Equality Act will help to break down gender-based barriers. The numbers show that more women than men are sexually harassed, are victims of domestic violence, are discriminated against because they are parents and are more likely to be victims of sex trafficking. We need laws to even the playing field.

A lot was said about women’s equality during the last week of the New York State legislative session, but nothing was completed. Our lawmakers still have the opportunity to pass all 10 points. New York should be a leader. Women deserve equality – now.