To the journalists moderating this week’s Democratic debate, I have a recommendation: Make your first question about closing the gender gap. Make your last question about closing the gender gap. And ask a lot of questions in between about closing the gender gap.
If you care about the economy, it helps to start with the math. Women are America’s largest potential driver of economic growth. By simply helping women match men’s labor force participation, we could grow our economy by $1 trillion.
After decades of gains, women’s progress in the workplace has stalled. They remain overrepresented in low-paying jobs, underrepresented in high-paying jobs, overworked at home, and undermined at the office. The cost to women and their families is enormous. Women earn 82 cents for every dollar men make, and they are working 27% more hours per year than they did in 1980, simply to keep their families above water.
The gender gap’s cost to our economy is enormous. That’s why so many of our competitors are helping women succeed at work. They invest three times more supporting working women than the U.S. does. The U.S., once a leader, now ranks 20th out of the world’s 22 advanced economies on women’s labor participation rate.
While our competitors are making it easier for women to succeed at work, the U.S. is actually making it harder. The Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress are restricting reproductive health care and family planning services. Nearly 40 bills limiting family planning and choice have been introduced in Congress so far this year.
The annual cost for center-based child care range from $4,000 to $15,000. In most states, childcare is affordable for fewer than half of all families. The Trump Administration has proposed spending cuts for afterschool programs, on-campus child care for students, and child care assistance for low-income working families.
Making sure women earn equal pay for equal work requires both investigation and enforcement, but the Trump Administration has opposed equal pay measures and blocked overtime pay reforms.
Trump is also blocking action on sexual harassment. Thirty-five percent of women in corporate America experience sexual harassment at some point in their careers. And 55% of women in senior leadership positions experience sexual harassment at some point in their careers.
Finally, only 61% of workers have employer-provided paid sick days. And only 12% of workers have employer-provided paid leave. Workers with jobs paying in the lowest 25% of wages are one-fourth as likely to benefit from employer-provided benefits like these than workers with jobs in the highest 25% of wages.
It’s simple: the biggest driver of our economy – women – cannot realize their potential in the workplace if government makes it harder for them to plan their families, raise their children, and work in safety.
Any questions? I certainly hope so.