The Status Quo Isn't Working for Women in America

Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina poses for photographs, Friday, June 19, 2015, at the Northeast Republican Lea
Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina poses for photographs, Friday, June 19, 2015, at the Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The status quo is a powerful force.

It has been 95 years since women got the right to vote. Fifty years since The Feminine Mystique. Sixteen years since I was named the first female CEO of a Fortune 50 company.

Yet, there are only 23 female CEOs in the S&P 500 today. (Fun fact: There are more CEOs named John than there are women.) Recent studies from the NYU Child Study Center suggest that a girl's self-esteem peaks at age 9 and declines from there. The majority of low-paying jobs are held by women, who make up over half of minimum wage earners. Eighteen million women live in poverty.**

The status quo isn't working for women. It isn't working for most Americans -- unless you are part of the political class that is wealthy and well connected.

For a lot of women in this country, the status quo means trying to earn enough for your family while spending less and less time with them. It means living paycheck to paycheck while praying you don't get sick.

They feel like we have an economy that doesn't understand them and doesn't understand their families. Americans don't need to work longer hours. They need to be able to spend more hours with their kids. Having it all isn't the question for most women. Holding it all together is the only question.

The political classes of both parties have failed women and working families in this country.

The economic policies of this administration have been devastating to women: 3 million women have fallen into poverty in the last six years.

Liberal policies maintain the status quo, which means, for example, that they are against over-the-counter birth control. (By the way, when Claritin moved over the counter, the price was cut in half in less than a year. Now, a month's supply cost $3.)

Most recently, the Left wants the government to mandate compensation and leave policies. Last week, Netflix announced that they would offer unlimited paid leave for a year to new parents. When I was at Hewlett Packard from 1999 to 2005, we also offered paid maternity and paternity leave because we wanted to compete for the best workers.

When I was asked about their policy this week, the Left was instantly outraged that I didn't believe the federal government should require all companies to pay for leave.

In other countries, these mandates have discouraged employers from hiring and promoting women. After such mandates were in place in Spain, companies were 6 percent less likely to hire women, 37 percent less likely to promote them, and 45 percent more likely to fire them. Even the liberal Center for American Progress has said that, with these policies, "it becomes much easier to justify discrimination."

And who will pay for federally mandated leave? Should we borrow more money from China that our grandchildren will have to pay off with interest? Cut programs like social security or medicare? Force employers to pay for it? Small and community businesses are the engine of our economy. They create two thirds of the new jobs and employ half our people. If we simply pass more regulations and pass more costs onto them, they will hire fewer people and create fewer jobs, which means our economy slows down at a time when most Americans need it to speed up.

It also strikes me as more than a little hypocritical for this federal government -- a bloated, inept, corrupt bureaucracy that takes on more and more spending but has been falling down on its most basic functions for decades (TSA? Border security? Cyber threats?) -- to dictate to small businesses how they should be run.

We need an economy that is so strong that employers are forced to compete for workers by offering better salaries, better leave policies, more time off, and good benefits. To start, that requires a government that encourages innovation and small business growth. Not a government that crushes job creation under the weight of a 73,000 page tax code and regulations that protect entrenched interests that can pay for the lobbyists and the lawyers.

People who have benefitted from the status quo want to preserve the status quo -- through whatever means necessary. The Left will tell you that more spending will cost nothing. They want you to believe government regulations don't affect your take home pay. They hope they can win women's votes by playing identity politics and pitting us against each other. In the end, they represent the same political class more interested in maintaining their power and prestige than solving your problems.

Our next president must challenge the status quo if we want to move forward. I am not in this race because I am a woman. I am running for president because I can win this job and I can do this job. I can do this job because I know what it takes to change the status quo.

**These facts were previously presented in a speech that Carly delivered on June 11, 2015 to the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC.

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