15 Ways You Can Actually Help In 2018 (Ahem, Ivanka)

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As the year draws to an end, many people often find themselves reflecting on what they can do in the new year to improve the lives of others. First Daughter and Senior Adviser to the President Ivanka Trump, for example, started 2017 by teasing dreams of tackling gender inequality and pushing policies beneficial to women and working families. In fact, helping women, children, and working families appeared to be some of Ivanka's biggest goals. As you look to the new year, it's worth reflecting on ways you can help women, children, and working families in 2018. And Ivanka might want to take note, too.

When her father was announced the Republican party's presidential nominee in July of 2016, Ivanka took the stage at the Republican National Convention and promised to fight for equal pay. On the campaign trail, she vowed to push her father to combat gender inequality. And when she stepped into a role in the White House, she did so with an agenda that included establishing a federal paid leave program, more affordable child care, and a global fund for female entrepreneurs, according to the the New York Times. But in the eyes of her critics, Ivanka fell short on those promises.

However you may feel about Ivanka, there's no denying that helping women, children, and working families are good goals to have. In fact, they're great goals. Goals everyone can take up in the new year. Here are 15 ways you can move to help women, children, and working families in 2018:

Own Your Own Business? Check Yourself

Despite haters' claims to the contrary, the wage gap does exist. A 2017 American Association of University Women (AAUW) study found that on average women were paid 80 percent of what men received in 2015.

If you own your own business or are in a position of significant influence and leadership within your company, you can help narrow the gender pay gap by ensuring you're honoring equal pay for equal work. Consider running an internal pay-equity audit to identify if there are any gender wage gaps present within your own payroll. If there are, get to work drawing those gaps to a close. If there aren't, encourage other business owners to run their own audits.

Advocate For Pay Transparency

Despite promising to advocate for equal pay, Ivanka supported the Trump administration's decision to toss out an Obama-era policy designed to increase pay transparency. Under the Obama rule, big businesses would have been required to report how they pay categories of employees by gender and race to the U.S. government. At the time, Ivanka said she felt the policy "would not yield the intended results" and thus she supported plans to scrap it.

However, according to Politico, research from unions shows pay transparency does work to reduce the gender pay gap. The Institute for Women's Policy Research found women employed in union jobs earned 31 percent more per week than their female counterparts working in nonunion jobs. Researchers believe the higher pay comes not only from union's collective bargaining power but also from the greater transparency unions are able to provide when it comes to wages.

To advocate for pay transparency, consider encouraging your state lawmakers to pass legislation — like California's fair wage law — aimed at increasing transparency and protecting employees' right to share their salary. You can also be a part of the push for pay transparency by sharing your own wage information at places like the Fairygodboss database.

Remember The Wage Gap Widens When Looking At Women Of Color

Although we often talk of the gender pay gap as one number – 80 cents – under which all women fall, the truth is that for many women of color the wage gap is significantly worse. In fact, data shows black women are, on average, paid 63 cents for every dollar paid to non-Hispanic white men. Latina women receive 54 cents for every dollar a non-Hispanic white male earns.

Support Legislation Designed To Close The Wage Gap

It goes without saying that supporting legislation designed to close the pay gap is a fantastic way to combat gender pay inequality. While the Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it illegal for employers to pay men more than women performing the same job, the gender wage gap still persists. That means there's definitely room for improvement and new policies. If you don't live in a state or city that has already done so, consider advocating for legislation which prohibits employers from asking applicants about their salary history in an effort to combat repeated pay discrimination. Such legislation has already been passed in Massachusetts, Philadelphia, New York, and California.

Organize & Educate

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While becoming politically engaged is a great first step toward helping to close the gender pay gap, the more the merrier. Connect with family and friends to talk about the issue of equal pay. Show them how easy it is to contact their own state legislators and congressional representatives to talk about closing the wage gap. Encourage them to stay informed and active on the issue.

Regularly Call Your Congressional Rep To Talk About Health Care Access

Although Republicans' efforts to repeal and replace Obama's Affordable Care Act ultimately failed, the health care debate hit a new level this past year when the GOP used the tax bill to axe the individual mandate. Even though the fight over health care will be largely fought in Washington, there are still ways you can help.

Your congressional representative isn't called a representative for nothing. But they can't advocate for your interests if they don't know what they are. Now, if you really want to get on your rep's radar, don't write, call. If you're not sure who your congressional representative even is, you can quickly look them up using your zip code here. Once you've found them, visit their official website to find their contact information. It should be easy to locate. Mostly likely you'll end up speaking to an intern or staffer, but that's OK! Your thoughts and opinions regarding the importance of protecting access to health care for all Americans will be recorded and filed for the representative.

Support Planned Parenthood

In May, the New York Times reported Ivanka had approached Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards with an idea: split the health care organization in two with abortion services making up a smaller arm separate from Planned Parenthood's other services. While Ivanka reportedly thought her plan would squash the debate around Planned Parenthood, the organization's officials felt is was "naive" and evidence the first daughter didn't understand how central reproductive choice was to its mission. Despite Ivanka's commitment to advocate for women, Republicans spent a good amount of 2017 trying to strip Planned Parenthood of its funding. And because the debate over Planned Parenthood is far from over, the organization will likely need all the support it can get in 2018.

Those with the financial means to do so might consider starting the year off with a direct donation to Planned Parenthood health centers or the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which serves as the nonpartisan political and advocacy arm of the health care organization. If you'd prefer to give your time, look into volunteering with your local clinic with this handy website. Those who'd prefer to become involved in political activism efforts might want to volunteer with the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Support Organizations Fighting For CHIP

In its rush to push through Republicans' tax overhaul, Congress let funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) lapse earlier in 2017. The program funds low-cost health insurance for low-and-middle income families and without budgeted funding, it's in trouble. For families that earn a bit too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford the often costly medical bills that can come with having a child, CHIP is invaluable. Nearly 9 million children have insurance thanks to CHIP, making the program key to the country dramatically reducing the number of children left uninsured. If you're able, consider donating to organizations fighting for CHIP, like Indivisible, The Children's Defense Fund, and The Children's Partnership.

Then Push Congress To Vote For Funding CHIP

Ultimately, it was Congress who failed to authorize a long-term appropriation for CHIP and it will be Congress who'll vote on whether or not CHIP gets the long-term funding solution it needs in 2018. Reach out to your congressional legislators after finding your House representative with this website and your state's senators via the Senate sight.

Donate To Organizations That Help Women Get On The Ballot

Helping to increase women's representation in politics, be it at a local, state, or federal level, is another way to help women in the new year. While women make up more than half of the country's overall population, they remain woefully underrepresented in Congress, totaling just 19.4 percent of the legislative body. But putting more women in office may prove beneficial to men and women. Research from the University of Virginia found female politicians were more effective at reaching across party lines than men.

Consider making a donation to any of the groups geared at helping women run campaigns for public offices. Organizations like EMILY's List, Emerge America, VoteRunLead, She Should Run, and Running Start, all help train and assist women in running for office.

Run For Office Yourself

Or, if you're someone who identifies as a woman, consider running for office yourself if you're feeling particularly invested about a certain set of issues. If you're intrigued about running for a local, state, or even federal office but don't know where or how to start, reach out to organizations like EMILY's List, Emerge America, the Center for American Women and Politics, and IGNITE for help. You can also get involved with your local chapter of the National Women's Political Caucus, which aims to recruit, train, and elect progressive pro-choice women.

Talk To Young Women About Politics Or, Even Better, A Career In Politics

If running for office isn't your thing, consider encouraging the young women and girls in your life to get active in politics. The next time you find yourself discussing dream jobs with your younger sister or cousin ask them if they've ever thought about a career in politics. Give a copy of Chelsea Clinton's She Persisted, a children's book detailing the stories of 13 inspirational women, to the young girls you know and help inspire the next generation of female leaders. You can also download She Should Run's free ebook See Joan Run for a bit of humor-infused encouragement to run for office.

Advocate For Paid Family Leave, Including Paternal Benefits

The United States is one of only eight countries that fails to offer paid leave to new moms and dads. But it isn't because the idea of paid family leave lacks support among the American public. According to a 2015 YouGov and Huffington Post poll, 69 percent of Americans think employers should be required to provide paid maternity leave.

To begin, seek out and support candidates that have made passing paid family leave legislation a priority. Ask your congressional representatives to support Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's Family And Medical Insurance Leave Act. If you have the financial means to do so, consider donating to organizations working to advance paid parental leave policy, such as the National Partnership for Women & Families. And if you head your own company, enact your own paid family leave policy.

Launch Or Promote Flexible Childcare Policies In The Workplace

Take a cue from Etsy and push your employer to adopt flexible childcare policies or even kid-friendly office spaces as a means of supporting women, children, and working families all in one. Similarly, flexible policies in regards to telecommuting or working from home can also help out those either struggling to afford or obtain childcare.

Advocate For Children

As minors under the voting age, children can't exactly advocate for themselves in Congress. That's why they need voters and legislators to act on their behalf to see that their needs and best interests are being protected.

If you're interested in working to make children's needs a priority for legislators, consider joining Save The Children's network of child advocates. Then consider attending the organization's three-day Advocacy Summit in March to receive training from experts and meet with elected leaders to discuss issues critical to children's futures. UNICEF also welcomes child advocates and encourages them to join a UNICEF congressional action team near them to learn how to be an effective advocate. The National PTA also has some tips for advocating for children with elected officials.

In reflecting on the legislative battles of this last year, it can sometimes feel as if it's impossible to make a difference. But while it may seem a daunting goal, there are a variety of ways — both big and small — that you can help women, children, and working families in the new year. Even the simple act of talking about the issues they face, be it with family and friends or with your elected officials, can have a major impact.