In the 2012 Election, American women sent a message. They showed up to the polls in record turnout and rejected politicians who supported policies that would have rolled back the clocks on their rights.
And now it's time for their voices to be heard throughout the halls of Washington.
That's exactly what American Women, an organization affiliated with EMILY's List, the nation's largest resource for women in politics, aims to do.
Built on the years of research EMILY's List has been doing on women voters, American Women aims to be the definitive resource in finding out what American women are thinking on pay equity, on budgets, health care, education, childcare, family and sick leave. Our research takes the pulse of women across the country -- their values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors are with on the critical issues facing our nation.
Women are a majority of the population -- 51 % -- and have huge economic influence. They make 85% of the consumer purchases in our country. They account for 58% of online retail dollars and make 80% of healthcare decisions. That means every policy, every law affects them. And our country needs to be taking those effects into account, every time.
We can no longer put up with policies that ignore women, or worse, directly harm us. Politicians should not be in the business of legislatively discriminating against women, their health and their families.
American Women's first round of research revealed that women across the board are feeling squeezed -- they spend their days juggling work, family, managing their households and trying to make ends meet. Financial angst is a top concern for many and most do not feel they have enough money to get by.
One woman from our focus group expressed her concern this way, "Our finances are the biggest stress I have right now. It seems like there's always something that needs to be bought or someone who needs to be paid. As soon as we get one thing taken care of, another thing pops up and needs to be paid."
Compounding this issue is equal pay. Women are well aware they make less money than men for the same work -- a major problem for 48 percent of women under age 35 -- and 80 percent of women believe women still experience discrimination in the workplace. Our research also showed that the lack of adequate retirement benefits and lack of adequate health insurance followed pay equity as a major concern for women.
A plurality of women polled agreed that the most effective way to improve women's lives was more family-friendly employer policies. The demand for more family-friendly polices is higher than average among those who work in larger businesses, from those who are married, and from those under age 50 -- the groups of women who are struggling the most to balance work and family.
Over 80 percent of women support policies that require larger businesses to expand their leave polices and offer flexible hours -- almost 90 percent of women favor requiring larger businesses to allow employees to earn paid family leave and 85 percent want large companies to allow workers to earn sick leave and have flexible work hours, including work-from-home options.
American Women's initial research is an undeniable counterpoint to the legislation we've seen in Congress and in state houses that dismisses the needs and priorities of women in favor of a regressive agenda that aims to curtail the rights and opportunities of women. Armed with the thoughts and opinions of our nation's most influential constituency, there is no more pressing time to amplify the voice of American women.