An America That Works for Women

The anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act provides the nation with a good time to reflect on our priorities for women in the workplace. It is a celebration of our work to create a fairer workplace for women, and also a reminder of how far we have to go.

Women make up over half of our country's population. That fact alone should make their success a major focus of Congress. The fact that currently women are 67-percent of the country's minimum-wage earners and earn just 78 cents on the dollar to men nationwide should make them a priority.

Our most recent research into American women shows that women voters are still looking for policies that grow the economy and create well-paying jobs, jobs that work for working women and their families.

American Women's latest survey found that when we described a comprehensive economic program designed to help women and families, including raising the minimum wage, mandating paid sick leave, and creating a family and medical leave insurance fund, as well as paycheck fairness, 62 percent of the women surveyed supported it.

We've seen these policies work. SeaTac raised the minimum wage to cries of looming disaster but met those doubts with success. Neighboring Seattle is seeing similar results. Companies have seen similar successes. The Gap, which raised their minimum hourly wage to $10 last February, saw job applications increase by at least 10 percent from the year before.

Congress taking steps to end gender discrimination in pay would be met with a positive reaction as well. A policy like the Paycheck Fairness Act is supported by a huge majority of women. While 83 percent of self-identified Democrats support a potential Paycheck Fairness Act, 64 percent of independent women support it as well. Republican women also support passing paycheck fairness legislation by more than two to one -- 56 percent to 24 percent.

Women also support policies that would help make their work lives work for their lives. Policies like requiring companies to provide paid sick days and paid family leave are critical because they make sure women are never forced to choose between losing their job and taking care of their children, a new baby, their families or themselves. And creating a family and medical leave insurance fund.

These policies help create the kind of good, well-paying jobs that women are looking for. They help women, their families, and their communities. They help create a stronger economy and a stronger country. This is what women are looking for from Washington.

What they are not looking for in Congress is for the GOP to focus on an extreme agenda, and they certainly were not looking for a bait and switch. Republicans knew that anti-women policies weren't popular and tried to campaign on more moderate rhetoric; however, when they got back to Washington, they immediately prioritized such policies.

Women, both Democrats and Republicans, think it's wrong for Congress to prioritize limiting access to abortion. Yet Republicans have spent the first weeks of the 114th Congress doing just that. Already they've introduced six bills to limit women's access to reproductive health care.

For women, access to reproductive health care is an economic issue. The ability to choose if and when to start a family is an economic decision: Does the woman have a job with maternity leave? Does she have job security? Can the family afford to raise a child? Does my employer's health coverage include birth control?

Women are looking for a fair shot at a good job that can support them and their families and give them a chance at a brighter future. We can't ask women to lead when they can't feed their families, worry about how to pay their debts, or wonder how they can afford child care. Our country is successful when women are successful. To that end, women are looking for a renewed focus on the policies that matter to them in the new Congress, and this research should be a clarion call to the president and to Congress as they continue to lay out their plans for the future.