Presidential Candidates Talk to Women at Second Debate

October 18, 2012

The AAUW Action Fund’s It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard voter education and turnout campaign represents an unprecedented investment in making women’s voices heard in the 2012 election. Follow us on Twitter and on Tumblr for the latest updates, and check out our biweekly Campaign Update for news, resources, and ideas.

Well, we wanted the presidential candidates to talk to women. And they certainly did during Tuesday night’s debate, which touched on pay equity and contraception. Over the last week, AAUW conducted a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #women1016 to encourage President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney to address women at the debate after failing to mention them during the first debate. The campaign reached more than 250,000 people and generated lots of buzz.

One of Tuesday’s questions dealt directly with pay inequity. The candidates were asked, “In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?” (The pay gap is currently at 77 percent.) Obama discussed the enactment of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and his administration’s increased enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, while Romney talked about his actions in Massachusetts and his support of workplace flexibility. You can read the candidates’ significantly different responses on the transcript.

Pay equity is an issue AAUW cares about deeply. We publish annual reports on the gender pay gap, and we played a major role in the passage of the Ledbetter Act. We also advocate for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, the much-needed update to the Equal Pay Act of 1963. As Ledbetter says, “Giving women my Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act without the Paycheck Fairness Act is like giving them a nail without the hammer.” American women need all the tools they can get. After the debate, aides indicated that Romney would not have signed the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act but that if elected, he would not seek to overturn it. You can see the candidates’ positions on the Paycheck Fairness Act on AAUW’s presidential voter guide.

The candidates also talked about women’s access to contraception and whether women should have access to contraception without a co-pay. Obama said that this wasn’t just a women’s issue but an economic issue for families. AAUW agrees, which is why we strongly support the coverage of contraception and other preventive care services without co-pays. You can see the candidates’ positions on whether employers should be required to provide insurance coverage for contraception on AAUW’s presidential voter guide.

Even though we’re glad the candidates talked to women, it’s important to remember that it took a petition campaign organized by three teenage girls to get a female moderator. Both Candy Crowley and Martha Raddatz did terrific jobs moderating the debates, and we look forward to many more debates moderated by women. Hopefully in the not-too-distant future, one of the candidates on that stage will be a woman as well.

There are 19 days until Election Day, and there’s still a lot to do. You can educate and inspire yourself with AAUW’s Tumblr page, which features lots of materials to share with others. And it’s not like there’s only one election happening. The presidential candidates may have talked about women, but do you know where your local candidates stand? Use our Congressional Voting Record to see how your legislators voted on key issues, our voter guides to see where the presidential candidates stand, and our convenient CVR poster to ask them questions.

The candidates may have talked to women last night, but it’s up to us to keep the conversation going.

By:   |   October 18, 2012

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