Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrat-backed candidate wins Wisconsin Supreme Court race Trump uses coronavirus briefing to fire back at critics Biden beats Sanders in Wisconsin primary MORE will be the Democratic party nominee and will face Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate committee to investigate origin of, response to coronavirus pandemic Amash teases possibility of third-party presidential bid Overnight Health Care: Trump fires back at critics during briefing | Trump claims he has authority on when to reopen states | Governors form groups to discuss plans | Fauci offers support to Trump | House delays return MORE in the general election in November 2020. To win he will need women, a huge diverse plurality of women. As they have in every election since 1980, women will turn the 2020 election.
They are more likely to be registered to vote and more likely to go to the polls than any other Americans. The 2018 midterms and 2020 primaries showed just how critical the turnout of women — Democrat, independent and moderate Republican will be this November.
And of course, black women the backbone of democratic turnout will be more critical than ever. But now, in the time of COVID-19, women’s concerns are more complex and challenging than ever. Biden’s promise to nominate a woman as vice president is an important and powerful commitment but it’s not enough. Joe Biden needs the most meaningful, history-making, aggressive agenda for achieving gender equity of any president before him.
Before, during and after the COVID-19 crisis, gender inequity plagues our nation. The 2020 World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report ranks the United States 53rd in the world for gender equity — behind Zambia, Ecuador and Bangladesh. American women were already more likely to live in poverty, to be employed in low wage occupations and to face challenges to access health care, childcare and paid leave before the COVID-19 crisis.
Now, American women have also borne the brunt of the economic crisis triggered by COVID-19. If women’s equity is not central to our recovery efforts the whole nation will lag. Countries that have embraced gender equity as a core priority have seen economic and social benefit writ large. Put another way, when women do better, families and society do better.
That’s why the United Nations designated gender equity as one for the core Millennium Development Goals. Given the vast consequences of COVID-19 on the American economy, amplified focus on women will pay exponential dividends.
Vice President Biden has already outlined many commitments to gender equity including raising the minimum wage to $15 (women are the majority of minimum wage earners) and reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act but there is still further he could go. While this list is not exhaustive, it would make his platform progressive, powerful and compelling to diverse women voters across America. It would also help boost economic recovery.
In short, it’s a start:
- Establish a new Cabinet-level secretary of gender equity to direct, coordinate, advise and guide gender-focused programs and initiatives across the whole of government. The Secretary would also work with Congress to ensure gender issues are considered in all major legislation, especially appropriations and stimulus bills. Many other countries have minister-level roles that address the wellbeing of women and girls. Women are more than 50 percent of the nation. They deserve focus, attention and investment.
- Commit to having 50 percent of women in your cabinet and in leadership at every level of the federal government by the end of your first term. The U.S. is currently 86th in the world for political parity of women, partially because Trump has the lowest number of women in the cabinet in decades. Gender balance will make a better cabinet and help achieve better solutions for America. America cannot afford group thinks at the top of the government. Prioritize women’s economic security and recovery in the rebuilding of the economy post COVID. Women small business owners, service workers, healthcare workers and immigrants are coping with the worst effects of the COVID crisis. Make their recovery a priority and all of America will recover with them.
- Commit to making permanent the paid family leave and paid sick leave provisions of the COVID relief bill and do it in the first 100 days of your administration. When Obama held the White House and Democrats held both houses of Congress, he failed to pass Paid Family or Sick Leave. Never has it been clearer why these are essential not just in a pandemic, but always.
- Publish a gender pay gap audit for your campaign and support gender pay gap reporting as a federal mandate as they do in the United Kingdom.
- Commit to passing universal childcare and Pre-K and fund it however you want – A wealth tax might be the way to go but find the money. There is overwhelming evidence that it would boost the economy by enabling more women and families to return to work as the economy recovers. And since the majority of childcare workers are female, putting money into childcare and Pre-k is a virtuous cycle.
- Commit to eliminating forced arbitration and NDAs on your campaigns and supporting federal legislation banning it once you are elected. Women should never be silenced for speaking up about harassment or abuse. You can set a high bar here. The private sector would follow and if they don’t, see above about federal legislation.
- Prioritize women’s equity in everything you do. Put a gender lens on every priority for your campaign and your administration. It will pay dividends. This list, while long is in fact just a start — there are dozens of more issues from climate change to teacher pay and immigration reform that disproportionately impact women. The point is, the vice president has a once in a lifetime opportunity to do right by the majority of Americans and rebuild the nation more inclusively in the process. It’s never been a better or more urgent time.
Lauren Leader is co-founder and CEO of All In Together, a non-partisan non-profit women’s civic education organization. She is also an author and advisor to major companies on diversity and women’s issues.