When Congress returns from summer recess next week, legislators will face big choices on military intervention in Syria, raising the debt ceiling, funding the government, and broadening Americans’ access to health care.
These are big issues, but we also believe that Congress shouldn’t forget the women’s economic agenda — “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds” — which was announced by House Democratic women in July. This agenda contains a package of policies to address pay, work and family balance, and childcare. The proposed policies include paycheck fairness, raising the minimum wage, support for job training and education, paid family and medical leave, and affordable childcare, among other initiatives. These policies would address the most fundamental economic challenges for middle-class and working women.
While we find that the economy no longer works for working people regardless of gender, we also know that women face unique challenges. The ways in which American families earn income have changed dramatically over the last 30 years, but the laws, assumptions, institutions, and structures that govern the economy have not. This has left many women on the edge—or struggling to keep up with demands at work and costs at home.
In late July, Democracy Corps and Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund tested these policies and found that not only are the individual policies incredibly popular, they are even stronger as a whole package. This agenda has the power to move the vote and to motivate unmarried women to turn out next November.
Why? In our March survey, 60 percent of unmarried women said the national political debate was not addressing the issues most important to them. It’s no wonder — two thirds (65 percent) of unmarried women said they had to make major changes at the grocery store to make ends meet, 40 percent said they had received reduced wages, hours, or benefits at work, and 40 percent said they had been forced to move in with family or had family move in with them. But women rarely hear about policies to address these pocketbook realities. This agenda will do just that.
The women’s economic agenda has broad and intense support – and set out new areas for winning broad engagement. Among all voters and among unmarried women, 3 of the top 4 most popular Democratic policies offered were part of the women’s economic agenda (the fourth was Medicare, which is also central to women’s economic stability). It is incredible to note that Democrats have not put these policies together as a package until now, given how strong they are among all voters and among the voters whose support they most need in 2014.
In short, a Democratic agenda focused on pay, opportunity, and support for working moms outperforms a Democratic agenda that does not include these policies — and far outperforms the dominant Republican agenda. It can powerfully move voters’ perceptions of which party is better on the economy, better for the middle class and working people, and better for women. This is true among all voters, all women, unmarried women, and the Rising American Electorate. It is not only the right thing to do for women, children, and families — it is the right thing to do politically.