Originally published in The Washington Monthly on October 10, 2013.
The Center for American Progress recently published an important study on the well-being of women in the United States. Entitled, “The State of Women in America: A 50-State Analysis of How Women are Faring Across the Nation, the research evaluated each state by three categories deemed to be most critical to enabling female success: economic security, health and leadership. CAP’s study also broke down the findings by race and ethnicity.
“We really wanted to take a holistic look, a broad survey, of some of the different factors that impact women’s lives,” said one of the lead researchers, Anna Chu. “We wanted to think about what’s important to women and their ability to reach a healthy and secure life.”
In conjunction with the report, CAP also launched what they’re calling the “Fair Shot Campaign” in order to raise public awareness, and to push for policy solutions aimed at improving the chances for female success in America. The campaign, which mirrors the three categories of the research report, is going to highlight issues such as reproductive health care access, gender wage gap disparities, a higher minimum wage, paid-family leave, and increasing the number of women in leadership positions in both the public and private sector. Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Service Employees International Union and American Women (the 501(c)(4) branch of Emily’s List) will be partners in leading the campaign.
Organizing For Action, the nonprofit advocacy organization that grew out of the 2012 Obama campaign, has also already hosted over 140 house parties across the country to discuss CAP’s new research findings and how to move the research into policy.
Neera Tanden, CAP’s president, told Politico, that despite the historic 20-point gender gap in the 2012 election, the concrete policy changes that should theoretically follow such a dramatic shift, like paid sick leave, have yet to become a reality.
“The goal is to affect conversations in 2014, 2016 and going forward. It’s not something we do for a week and drop.”
“With the pay equity issue in particular, women across the spectrum, regardless of socioeconomic status really feel, see and understand that it’s inherently happening,” said CAP Senior Fellow, Buffy Wicks, in an interview.
According to the data, women on average earn 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, but for African-American women that number is only 64 cents, and for Hispanic women, it’s a mere 53 cents.
“Women deserve to make 100% on the dollar for what men make,” said Chu.
Economic issues, beyond wage inequality also persist. More than 21 million women still lack health insurance and CAP reported that in 2012, 16.3 percent of women lived in poverty compared to 13.6 percent of men. Even more staggering, 29 percent of African American women, and 28 percent of Hispanic-American women lived in poverty.
Today’s minimum wage, which stands at $7.25, is reportedly 31 percent lower than the value of the minimum wage in 1968. CAP reports that if the minimum wage were raised to $10.10 per hour, an equivalent value to 1968’s, more than half of the beneficiaries, close to 17 million, would be women.
“Nearly two thirds of individuals earning minimum wage are women,” said Wicks.
Employing progressive political behemoths like CAP, OFA, and Emily’s List, among others, signals a real power push to prioritize issues that affect women—issues that often remain on the backburner of the progressive agenda. And with exit polls from the 2012 election revealing that 53 percent of voters were women, with 55 percent of those casting votes for President Obama, the political impetus from the citizenry seems there, too.
The worry, of course, is to make sure that the policy progress amounts to more than just “trickling down” or “leaning in.” But CAP’s vision, to see economic security, health access and leadership opportunities as all inextricably linked indicates that what they’re organizing around is a much deeper political change.