On Thursday, Nancy Pelosi held a press conference on the steps of the Capitol to announce the Economic Agenda for Women and Families. There are three main pillars to the agenda: fair pay, work and family balance, and affordable childcare; the press conference was meant to shed light on how critical those three areas are for women – politically and personally. Although several prominent female politicians explained their viewpoints on the need for this agenda, I felt most inspired by the ordinary citizens who traveled to the Capitol to tell us their stories.
One of the speakers was a single mother from Michigan who raised her young daughter while taking courses as a full-time college student and working a part-time job. We also heard from a female business leader who fought for equal pay for men and women within her father’s company, risking her job stability as well as her family relationships to increase the quality of life of her female employees. Then there was the small business owner who overcame countless obstacles to raise a family and a business simultaneously.
These stories were important because they exemplified the need for an economic agenda for women and families across the lines of class, race, age, and profession. Although each speaker’s situation was different, the lesson remained the same: when women succeed, America succeeds.
2 out of 3 workers making the minimum wage are women. In addition, many women do not have access to affordable childcare or paid sick leave. We are not giving women the tools they need to achieve a work & family balance. If we provide women fair pay, affordable childcare, and paid sick leave we will not only build stronger families, but we will strengthen our communities and the American economy. The single mother and student was able to gain a valuable education through the help of her university’s childcare system and now has a successful career in which she is giving back to her community. Beyond the great work she does in her career, this job allows her to strengthen the American economy as a consumer.
Although I fully support Pelosi’s initiative, and am super excited to see it come to fruition, I couldn’t help but notice a missing component: education equity. I was privileged to be able to go to school on an academic scholarship which, combined with some financial support from my parents, allowed me to graduate from the University of Maryland debt-free. But many of the students I have met in my work as an organizer are less fortunate: after graduation they started saving every penny, working part-time jobs as nannies and waitresses on the side of their full-time careers, and are delaying their plans to start a family in order to pay off their student debt. These young people could be engaging in community building rather than working a second job, could be spending money that currently goes to loans on goods and services from local businesses, and could stop dictating their family planning by how many years it will take to pay off their student loans.
Nonetheless, I applaud Leader Pelosi and everyone involved in launching the economic agenda for women and families. It is a much needed effort that I am proud to support as a woman, student, feminist, and hopeful future mother.