Although she has been criticized for months for not being open enough, both in terms of communicating with the press and on her key policy points, Hillary Clinton laid out an expansive, feminist economic plan on Monday during a speech at the traditionally liberal New School in New York City. There, Clinton offered specific policy plans on a number of economic issues, like the need for corporations to profit-share with employees, education investments, tax code reform, and health care costs. However, the most optimistic point in her address was Clinton's focus on handling economic issues that specifically affect women — both for the sake of women's rights, Clinton noted, and for the growth of America's economy.
Candidates often lump deeply important issues like the gender pay gap and affordable child care for working mothers in with abortion and contraception access under the broad, vague category of "women's issues." By bringing attention to the need for feminist economic reform, Clinton made clear she sees the lack of pro-women economic initiatives as a serious fiscal issue, noting, "These challenges have been dismissed by some as women’s issues. Well, those days are over.”
Although analysts might have expected such a high-profile feminist candidate to make fixing these problems a part of her platform, the pro-women points underlying her entire economic plan were still unprecedented. Some examples ...
In the economic dialogue of presidential candidates, fair pay rarely gets that much attention. The focus typically goes to the national debt, unemployment, and welfare, to name a few. As important as those issues are, they are no more noteworthy than the fact that, on average, women are paid less than men for doing the same work. The research varies, but the Pew Research Center has the gap at 84 cents on the dollar. Even if it's 99 cents on the dollar, this is a genuine economic problem, and a presidential candidate is finally making it a priority.
Paid Family Leave
Clinton also addressed the need for paid family leave. A lack of paid family leave is often one of the reasons women fall behind in the corporate world. They sometimes have to leave a job for maternity leave and do not find their jobs waiting for them when they return. In May, Clinton said, “At a time that should be so exciting and joyful, I see so many women just distraught.”
Irregular hours and just-in-time scheduling hit women hard. They often have to deal with finding child care, and six million women have said that a lack of fair scheduling is why they don't have full-time employment, according to Al Jazeera America. Women often work irregular hours and excessive overtime, and face losing their jobs if they don't. Clinton has made herself one of the few politicians — nor just among the presidential candidates, but among all lawmakers — to address this.
Affordable Child Care
Clinton also cites a lack of affordable child care as a reason women are held back. Her plan to give working and middle class families access to pre-k education fits in with this issue. If more women could afford child care, they could have the option of building careers or investing in higher education.
Earned Sick Days
A lack of earned sick days for employees can end up putting women behind their male coworkers. When a child is sick, a working mother often has to decide whether to take time off and possibly lose her job or go to work and risk the well-being of her family. One study revealed that working women are twice as likely to experience a job loss because of family illness, according to NJ Time To Care. Clinton wants to make sure everyone has access to the sick days they deserve.
Increased Minimum Wage
Although Clinton's support of a higher minimum wage is not a gender-specific issue, it could help a lot of women. The single mother is particularly susceptible to falling into poverty. One third of all families headed by single mothers were below the poverty line in 2013 — about 15.6 million households — according to The Huffington Post.
Other Employee Benefits
Clinton also wants to give employees more benefits and training. With women making up 47.21 percent of the workforce, according to The Huffington Post, worker benefits would definitely help them get ahead. Giving women the opportunity to get more training could be a factor in disassembling the glass ceiling — the idea that women don't get promoted as often or as quickly as men.
No major presidential candidate has ever really given these concerns so much attention. No candidate has ever promised to take them on with such fervor. Maybe it just took a female frontrunner. Maybe it just took Hillary.
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