Being a woman in the U.S. is still economically disadvantageous. Donald Trump’s playing, then doubling down on the “woman card” criticism of Hillary Clinton is not only a strategic error with his unfavorability with women in a deep ditch, but nonsensical in the face of the facts.
The “woman card” debate is also a clear division between Republicans and Democrats on the existence of and solutions for systemic bias, whether that’s on the basis of gender or race or sexual orientation. Chief Justice John Roberts famously said in 2007 in a school desegregation case, Parents Involved v. Seattle School District No 1, that “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” This encapsulates the GOP view, also espoused by Carly Fiorina. Which is, let’s assume everybody has equal opportunity whether or not the long and historic bias against certain groups, and its after-effects, still impacts their opportunities or not.
When asked at the September 16, 2015 debate what woman she would add to the $10 bill, Fiorina declined to give a name and suggested that women weren’t a “special interest group.” Her point, echoed by Cruz and Kasich, is that economic growth – jobs, basically – lift all boats. While that’s true, the actual facts show that we women in fact have a long way to go:
• Women are less likely to have health insurance from their employer.
• Women are less likely to have retirement savings plan.
• Women earn 78 cents on the dollar to men, and this hasn’t changed since 2001.
• Women make up 51% of the population. 19.4% of members of Congress are women. 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.
The GOP isn’t helping any, from Trump and Carson’s recent suggestion that Harriet Tubman get sidelined to the $2 bill, to the fact that the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee almost has a campaign plank devoted to sexist commentary.
Hillary Clinton understands that women feel equal but are not treated equally, and that gender equality lifts all boats. She understands that reproductive rights are economic rights. And that words and acknowledgement matter. Tubman on the $20 bill, our first female president. Female leadership begets female leadership. If women finally have a significant hand in making the rules, then they can win the game too.