Family Values @ Work

Women Leaders: The Policies Women Need Are What the Economy Needs

September 18, 2014

When Secretary Hillary Clinton and five Congressional women leaders gathered today at the Center for American Progress to talk about an economic security agenda for women, they invited two women to join them whose lives illustrate the need for that agenda . One was Rhiannon Broschat from Chicago (second from the right,) an activist in the fight for paid sick days.

Rhiannon selfie with leaders


Rhiannon shared how a Whole Foods manager informed her she was being “separated” from the company for “abusing” the company’s attendance policy after she stayed home with her special needs son when Chicago schools closed during the polar votex.  “My son will always come first,” Rhiannon said. Click here to see a powerful video filmmaker Sekou Luke made about her.

Shawnta Jones from Maryland described how access to affordable child care kept her employed and able to stay in college. The experiences of these two women helped illustrate the need for a new set of policies like paid sick days, paid family leave, equal pay and a higher minimum wage, predictable schedules, and quality affordable child care – policies all the speakers agree are not a favor to women, but exactly what the economy needs to thrive. As Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand put it, “Only once every woman is able to achieve her full potential will America be able to achieve hers.”

Sen. Gillibrand said lack of paid leave is the issue that makes her angriest, recounting an all-too common story of a woman knocked out of her job as a result of too little time to care and facing a lifetime economic penalty as a result. She called for “a Rosie the Riveter moment, a call to action asking 6 million more women to vote and to hold elected officials accountable.”

Rep. Rosa DeLauro cited a recent article by Heather Boushey on the need for family-centered economics. “Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal put the family at the core of its political and economic platform,” wrote Boushey, “connecting the day-to-day reality of families to the well-being of the American economy. It wasn’t just political rhetoric; this platform was actually good for the economy.”

Importance of Local Wins

Several of the speakers pointed to the string of state and local policy wins as models for the kind of action we need. They even competed with each other for whose city or state had the first or best bill! The point they drove home was the need for us to act together. As Leader Nancy Pelosi put it, women weren’t “given'” the vote – they fought for and won it. 

Senator Patty Murray added the importance of defeating the notion that Congress can’t act. “We can make it happen,” she said.

All the speakers talked about the importance of voting – and of taking action together. “People need to feel they’re part of a movement to empower themselves and their families so they can take over the future and take back our country,” Sec. Clinton said.

Rhiannon Broschat is a great example of the activists who are getting engaged and making that movement successful. What drives them is determination to turn a painful personal experience into the power that comes from acting together. And they’re sending a clear message to candidates and elected officials to say, We demand #Progress for Women. #WEmatter.



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