What We’re Not Hearing from Republicans: Issues that Matter to Women and Families

With the presidential election now in full swing, the Ms. Blog is excited to bring you a series presented in conjunction with Presidential Gender Watch 2016, a project of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation and the Center for American Women and Politics. They’ll be tracking, analyzing and illuminating gender dynamics during election season—so check back with us regularly!

Since 2013, poll after poll after poll has shown that women are looking for results on the issues that matter most to them: the economic security issues like ending gender discrimination in pay, paid sick days, or paid family or medical leave. In other words, the issues that keep women and their families making ends meet.

For almost two years, American Women has been listening to women from across the country as they talk about their daily struggles, what keeps them up at night and what policy solutions they believe can make a real difference in their lives.

Here is what we know:

  • The top concern for women is making enough money for their families’ bills and expenses.
  • Gender discrimination in pay was the #1 workplace concern for working women.
  • Men report more access to paid sick days and paid leave than women.
  • 40 percent of working women believe they are paid less than men in their workplace.
  • Across party lines, women—Democrats and Republicans alike–support fighting for economic security issues like equal pay for equal work, a higher minimum wage, paid sick days and paid family leave.

However, in the September Republican debate, almost one year to Election Day, certain plans to help women and families get ahead, such as paid family and medical leave, equal pay for equal work, or fair scheduling, were not even mentioned. Not one of the 15 Republican candidates has discussed the fact that women are two-thirds of minimum wage earners and the primary or co-breadwinners in 40 percent of families. Neither Donald Trump nor Ben Carson has addressed bringing more transparency to pay. Women and their families are still waiting to hear from Jeb Bush on his plan to make childcare affordable. Even Marco Rubio’s proposal for paid family leave would likely only help those at the very top and leave working families behind.

As the election cycle continues, we’ll be watching and listening to these important conversations. We’ll be listening in tonight’s debate to hear whether or not – and how—the Republican candidates address these issues. Will the Democrats’ emphasis on these issues push the GOP candidates to take a position? Will the dialogue over work-family balance started by likely-Speaker Paul Ryan heighten the saliency of this issue to Republican candidates or voters? Progress on these issues will require substantive political debate. Maybe that debate will start tonight.

Photo via Flickr user DonkeyHotey licensed under Creative Commons 2.0




Kate Black is the executive director at American Women, an affiliated organization of EMILY’s List. American Women works to amplify women’s voices across the country.