By Business and Professional Women’s Foundation friend Elisabeth Gehl
As a society, we are obsessed with anything to do with marriage: falling in love, glamorous weddings, gorgeous rings, stunning dresses, and happily ever after. Consequently single women typically feel that their married counterparts always have a leg up in getting society’s focus and attention. And while that may be true in many regards, it’s not the case when it comes to electing our political leaders. Single women proved to be extremely influential in the last two election cycles, and will undoubtedly be again this November. As a result, Congressional leaders are shifting their priorities this year to move legislation forward that impacts all women, but especially single women.
The number of single women in this country continues to grow and candidates are taking notice. There are 55 million single, divorced, separated or widowed women eligible to vote this year and they share the same unique needs as all women, but often with a further emphasis because most are taking care of themselves, and sometimes their families, alone.
The needs of single women and the issues facing them span the gamut from Generation Y just getting out of college with looming student loans, to the widow that is struggling every month to survive on her Social Security check. Women now make up about half of all workers and among families with children one in four is headed by a single parent. Many single women feel very vulnerable in their ability to stay economically afloat, and especially need policies that can give them a foundation to succeed. This is finally starting to resonate with legislators because these women represent an important constituency, and have the ability to determine the outcome of this year’s election.
In 2008, unmarried women were among Barack Obama’s most loyal supporters. This group of women turned out in droves four years ago and delivered 70 percent of their votes to him. Two years later during the 2010 mid-term election, the opposite happened when many of them stayed home, and as a result Democrats lost the House and had their Senate majority decreased. Democrats want to prevent that from happening again with so much at stake for a wide array of women’s issues, including equal pay.
Determined to get single women re-energized and engaged in this year’s election, Senate leaders are reshaping their legislative agenda and advancing an equal pay bill this month, the Paycheck Fairness Act that will enhance women’s ability to win pay discrimination lawsuits. Specifically, the Paycheck Fairness Act would update and strengthen the Equal Pay Act by improving remedies for pay discrimination, prohibiting employer retaliation, and facilitating class action suits in equal pay claims, among other strategies.
On average, single women have lower household income than married women therefore policies like the Paycheck Fairness Act that address pay disparities are of particular importance to this population. As our economy continues to be on life support, single women are feeling economically marginalized and that their unique needs and challenges are not being adequately addressed. Many consider paycheck fairness as one of their top economic issues because they know that to succeed financially they need to be on an equal level playing field with their male counterparts.
HERvotes Blog Carnival: Join us by sharing this and the posts below on Facebook, Twitter (using the hashtag #HERvotes), and other social media.
Justice for Working Women, Jewish Women International
The Wage Gap: Collective Change Not Choice, National Council of Women’s Organizations
A Jewish Call for Equal Pay, Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism
American Women and Families Deserve a Vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, National Partnership for Women and Families
Paycheck Fairness Does Not Have to be an Oxymoron, Wider Opportunities for Women
Raise the Minimum Wage and Narrow the Wage Gap, National Women’s Law Center