What’s at Stake for Working Women in this Election
Disclaimer & unabashed bias alert: I previously (and proudly) worked on behalf of President Obama and am currently fundraising with Entrepreneurs for Hillary.
Politics can sometimes feel like it has little to do with your everyday life – but this year, that’s not the case at all. This is especially true for the working women I speak with every day, who are focused on crafting careers that work with the rest of our lives.
As a 29-year-old woman with a lot of ambition and a craving for a kickass personal life (duh), it’s become clear to me that whoever ends up in the White House next will have a dramatic impact on a long list of policies that could totally shake up my career in the coming few years.
Just consider these 5 pressing policy issues:
1. Equal Pay for Equal Work
Because the gender wage gap is still a thing.
I was excited to see Massachussetts pass a first-of-its-kind law making it illegal for employers to ask about your salary history before they offer you a job – a shitty, all-too-common practice I warn people about all the time, which can perpetuate historical salary injustices.
But despite this progress, and despite the fact that President Obama made historic strides by signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law as his first act as President, there’s so much more to be done to solve this problem.
As The New York Times put it, “Nationally, there have been repeated efforts to strengthen equal pay laws — which are already on the books but tend to lack teeth, but none have succeeded so far.”
I mean really, how does it feel knowing it’s possible that every guy you knew in college now earns more than you?
Not. Great. And the wage gap is even wider for women of color than white ladies like me. It’s well past time for leaders to make this historical injustice a priority.
2. Protections for New Parents
Is this what we mean by “American exceptionalism?”
The United States stands alone as “dead last” among developed countries when it comes to our complete lack of policies protecting maternity and paternity leave.
As such, working parents have been relying on their own patchwork of strung-together solutions to make the balancing act of work and family possible. In this fragile ecosystem, with no national infrastructure of care, having a baby can cost you your job.
To remedy this long-overdue oversight, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have put forth plans for paid parental leave – or in Trump’s case, just maternity leave (because dads don’t change diapers, right?).
Clinton’s plan guarantees 12 weeks of leave for either parent with pay equal to at least two thirds of your income. Trump’s plan, rolled out with the help of his daughter, Ivanka, includes up to 6 weeks for mothers only, paid in the form of unemployment benefits (which varies state by state, but is typically a smaller percentage of your usual income).
I’m not even close to having a kid, but the mere prospect of reproducing seems more than a little daunting. Are you budgeting for a baby in the next 5-10 years? If so, our next President could make crucial decisions that determine how easy – or not so easy – it will be to have a baby, keep your job, and (hopefully) not go broke in the process.
3. Child Care Reform
Almost anyone can call themselves a childcare provider. How creepy is that?
Every year, children die at daycare due to the total lack of training, oversight, and licensing required to own and operate a childcare center in many states. This should terrify all of us, but because reporting of infant deaths at such centers is often not required, these statistics go under-reported.
In cities like DC where I live, accessing quality day care usually involves getting on year-long waiting lists and monthly price tags that rival a mortgage payment. When the choice comes down to quality care that costs an entire person’s paycheck versus unregulated, sketchy providers that are reasonably priced, it’s no wonder so many working parents end up pressing pause on their careers to care for kids full-time. Not a very empowered choice, is it?
This system is in desperate need for reform, and interestingly both Clinton and Trump have announced their visions for making changes.
At this point in time, however, it’s not entirely clear how either plan would be implemented. For me, it boils down to who you believe will truly make working parents’ concerns a priority.
4. Minimum Wage
Because who works for minimum wage? Women, mostly.
Perhaps your days of serving coffee or tending bar are behind you. Or maybe that’s how you’re financing your career transition. Either way, if you’ve ever attempted living on minimum wage, you know it’s nearly impossible, especially in any of the six states that have NO minimum wage laws whatsoever.
In case it’s not immediately clear, the issue of a living wage is inherently tied to gender equality becausetwo-thirds of minimum wage workers are women.
Clinton has supported a federal raise of the minimum wage to at least $12 an hour, and in response to pressure from Bernie Sanders, says she would like to see that number rise to $15. Donald Trump’s position on the minimum wage is a little harder to pin down.
5. Abortion Access
“You don’t know what you got ‘till it’s gone.”
Abortion is probably one of those things you don’t think much about until you need one. But considering the fact that one in three women will have an abortion at some point in their lifetime (whether for medically necessary reasons or not), it’s kind of a big deal that they be available – and accessible.
What if one of every three of your friends was definitely going to jump out of a helicopter at some point in their lifetime, but access to parachutes was nearly impossible? That would keep you up at night, wouldn’t it?
Okay, okay, so maybe getting knocked up isn’t quite as certain a death sentence as jumping out of a helicopter, but the fear is real. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and tell your significant other you’re period’s late and get back to me.
So where do the candidates stand on these issues? It boils down to their ability to affect who sits on the Supreme Court, the judicial body that holds the real power on issues relating to a woman’s right to choose.
When presenting his list of preferred Supreme Court nominees, Trump made sure to add, “By the way, these judges are all pro-life.” Clinton, on the other hand, kicked off her campaign standing alongside Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, saying, “Anyone who would so casually agree to the idea of punishing women [for abortion]… that is someone who doesn’t hold women in high regard. Because if he did, he’d trust women to make the right decisions for ourselves.”
Bottom line: access to contraception and abortion services puts the power in my hands. My body? My decisions.
Even if you wouldn’t ever get an abortion yourself, voting in pro-choice candidates like Clinton is about keeping politicians paws off your drawers.
This year’s campaign is not about some hypothetical future.
It’s what’s about to go down in your life and your career.
I want to live an America where I can decide when to have a family, and rest assured that doing so isn’t going to ruin my career in the process. Is that too much to ask for in the most powerful nation on earth? I don’t think so.
I want to live in an America where I can afford high-quality childcare on a middle class income. And where my child’s caretakers are also compensated fairly so they too can live healthy, productive, lives.
Our next President will have a huge impact on making this vision for America a reality. Or…not.
That’s why I’m supporting the only candidate who seems to understand the situation we working women are facing in today’s economy: Hillary Clinton.
If politics isn’t really your thing, I can totally understand that. But this November, we all have the power to choose what kind of future we’ll face together – as families, as workers, and yes, as women.
After all, the future of your career – and ability to live the life you want – depends on it.