By Emily Martin, NWLC Vice President and General Counsel, and Amy Tannenbaum, NWLC Program Assistant
A few themes have dominated the media after Wednesday's first presidential debate: was the moderator any good, who "won," and Big Bird's future employment prospects. But here's the question that we have been asking: where was the talk of women? In a piece for The Nation that also asks this question, Bryce Covert points out that the economic issues at hand have critical implications for women, but women are still seen as a special interest group. She writes, "'Women's issues' often get lumped into ‘social issues' and then sidelined as not being ‘core issues' like the deficit or jobs."
Covert is absolutely right to point out that the impact of these core issues on women deserved specific attention during the debate. As over 50 percent of the U.S. population, women are NOT a special interest group. In fact, according to the Center for American Women in Politics, women actually vote MORE than men: women have turned out to vote in greater numbers -- and proportions -- than men in every presidential election since 1980. The topics of Wednesday's debate -- the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, Social Security, taxes, education, jobs and the economy -- all offered the candidates a chance to articulate what their plans would mean for women. Neither took advantage of that chance. Nor was there any discussion whatsoever of a host of other domestic issues critical to women, from the wage gap, to women's reproductive health, to child care, to protection against discrimination.
Here are just a few examples of the many questions important to women that we hope will be asked -- and answered -- at the next debate that includes domestic issues:
Q: Poverty is a women's issue. One in seven women are poor, and the national poverty rate for all women was 14.6 percent in 2011 (compared to men's poverty rate of 10.9 percent). The rate was almost 26 percent for black women and almost 24 percent for Hispanic women. What would you do to alleviate poverty?We're hoping that the next time around the post-debate headlines will be lauding that we heard about women, rather than lamenting that we didn't.
Q: Given the strong agreement about the importance of a child's earliest years to his or her future development, what would you do to ensure that working parents, especially low-income working parents, have the child care they need to work and their children need to start school ready to succeed?
Q: According to the most recent data, women working full-time year-round earn about 77 cents for every dollar earned by men -- a number that hasn't changed for a decade. How would you address this persistent pay gap?
Q. How would you reduce the maternal mortality rate, which has doubled in the United States in the past 25 years?
Q. Today, women who purchase health insurance on their own pay, on average, almost 30 percent more than men for the same coverage in the 37 states that permit insurance premiums to be based on gender. Should health insurance companies be permitted to charge women more than men for the same coverage? What would your approach to this issue be?
Q. In the United States today, 1 in 7 women live in poverty, and low-income women disproportionately lack access to critical reproductive health care -- from testing for reproductive cancers to information about birth control to pre- and post-natal care. How will you address women's reproductive health care needs?
Also published on NWLC's blog, WomensTake.