Research suggests American mothers are the most stressed out in the Western world. The women of this nation carry a heavy load, doing more than their fair share of unpaid labor and receiving less than their fair share for paid work.
But America’s women aren’t just more likely than men to be doing the childcare and the housework, they’re also more likely to vote. So it makes sense that those seeking the presidency recognize the issues the nation’s women are facing and address them, and this week presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg did that, dropping his new “Women’s Agenda.”
He’s committing to closing the wage and wealth gaps, advancing women’s health, and ending the maternal mortality crisis. His plan for gender parity also includes “ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment to recognize women’s equal rights in the Constitution, appointing at least 50% women to the Cabinet and judiciary.”
It’s a bold plan that highlights just how far America currently is from achieving gender equality and how it could become a leader on this front. No country in the world is currently on target to meet the UN’s targets for gender equality. Buttigieg wants to change that and wants America to show the rest of the world how it can be done.
So how would Buttigieg do what he is proposing? His full plan is laid out on his website, but here are the bullet points:
Affordable childcare + paid leave
In his plan to close the wage and pay gaps Buttigieg states that he plans to eliminate “the trade-off between career and family with affordable child care and paid family leave.”
This is a good first step. We know America needs paid parental leave and that the cost of day care is almost as much as rent in some cities. Thanks to Motherly’s second annual State of Motherhood survey we know that 85% of moms don’t think society understands or supports motherhood and more than half of moms say they are discouraged and find it extremely challenging managing trade-offs between career and family.
We know that when American women have access to affordable childcare maternal workforce participation rates increase. After Washington, D.C. implemented free full-day preschool (which 90% of 4-year-olds and 70% of 3-year-olds attend) moms’ participation in the workforce went up by 10%, according to the Center for American Progress.
Affordable childcare is going to be key in any plan to close the wage gap in America and so is paid parental leave for mothers and fathers. If we want the “motherhood penalty” (which costs moms about $16,000 a year) to go away we have to create a culture where all parents are taking leave. To equalize paychecks we have to equalize parenting responsibilities and we can’t do that without paid family leave.
Buttigieg’s plan also proposes growing women-owned business through $50 million in capital and he’s also proposing “legislation to immediately make public the median pay gap, broken down by racial and ethnic groups, at every large company: for every dollar that the company pays to male employees as a whole, including salary and bonuses, how much does it pay to women employees?” This is similar to Britain’s Equality Act, which sees companies with more than 250 employees report their gender pay gap figures at the end of every financial year.
Advancing women’s health
America is facing a maternal health crisis and Buttigieg’s plan recognizes that, building on his previous plan to address the wider mental health crisis in the nation. He’s promising an affordable public health plan—”Medicare for All Who Want It.” Families would be able to opt into Buttigieg’s comprehensive public plan or stay on their employer-sponsored care.
And at a time when some states are making changes that limit access to abortion, Buttigieg’s plan promises to “ensure that women permanently have access to safe, affordable, and legal abortions by codifying the right into law to protect women from state-level interference.”
He also plans to reduce the closure of obstetric units through payment reforms and encourage medical providers to serve patients in rural and tribal areas by expanding and reforming the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and “diversify the health workforce and train our current health workforce to combat discrimination and bias–especially racial bias–when treating patients.”
Building safe + inclusive communities
Buttigieg’s plan to make American women safer includes addressing the intersection of gun ownership and domestic violence, ending the backlog of untested rape kits, passing the Equality Act to protect people from gender and sexual identity-based discrimination and reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which allowed police to take guns from a woman’s abusive husband or partner but which expired earlier this year. Buttigieg would renew the act, protect it from future expiry and expand it to include not only spouses but also dating partners, thereby closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole” that allowed some abusive partners to retain their weapons.
Power + influence
In an op-ed for USA Today, Buttigieg explained how he plans to increase the power and influence of women in America.
“I am committed to ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment during my administration to formalize women’s legal equality. Because personnel is policy, I pledge to nominate at least 50% women to my Cabinet and to the judiciary. We’ll put gender equity at the forefront of our policies at home and abroad. We’ll pursue campaign finance reform that will make it easier for women to enter politics and create a more representative government. And we will push companies to increase transparency and make sure women and diverse leaders can rise to the top, because it is unacceptable that women make up 45% of workers at S&P 500 companies but just 5% of S&P 500 CEOs,” Buttigieg explains.
It’s a bold plan—and whether or not Buttigieg makes it to the White House it’s a plan worth talking about.