What Has Obama Done for Women?
White House economic adviser Cecilia Rouse talked with The Root about how the Obama administration has helped women in the recession.
Democrats usually have women voters in the bag. In the 2006 midterm elections, exit polls showed that women voters favored Democrats overall by 12 percentage points. In 2008 Barack Obama got 56 percent of the female vote in the general election. But as Nov. 2 looms, it's become obvious to Democrats that their once comfortable lead among women voters has become painfully small. A recent ABC News-Washington Post generic poll shows that only 47 percent of women say they will vote Democrat in races, while 44 percent say they will vote for Republicans.
In response, the Obama administration has set out to communicate what Democrats have done for women over the last two years. The White House says it has done quite a bit to help ease the economic burden and improve prospects for American women of all stripes. Cecilia Rouse, a member of Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, chatted with The Root recently about some of the Obama administration's women-friendly initiatives.
The Root: The administration says it's working toward shrinking or eliminating the gender pay gap, which remains largest for minority women. How do you work to close that gap while addressing the specific needs of minority women?
Cecilia Rouse: The president very much believes that Congress needs to pass the [Paycheck Fairness Act]. One of the first things the president signed was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, so we think it's important that women receive equal pay on the statutory front.
More generally, one of the ways the president is trying to help ensure that women can receive equal pay is to make it easier for many women to balance their responsibilities. Part of the gender gap is explained by women taking jobs that allow them to still be able to take care of their children or take care of their elderly parents while having a good job.
Currently, what many women are forced to do is take a lower-paying job even though they are perfectly qualified for a higher-paying job with more responsibilities. But when firms put in place workplace-flexibility options where workers are paid based on performance, workers are given some choice over the hours they work, or they're given mobile workstations so they can work from home or choose when they can start their start hours and ending hours, all of these arrangements make it easier for women to combine these two responsibilities.