President Obama greets House and Senate pages after the 2015 State of the Union address. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
Tuesday’s State of the Union touched on four things that may affect women in a big way going forward.
One, President Obama talked up the need to make childcare affordable. “It’s time we stop treating childcare as a side issue or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us,” he said.
The HuffPo article I read that detailed the president’s four women-friendly plans referenced a Pew Research Center study from last spring. Weekly childcare expenses for families with working mothers rose more than 70 percent from 1985 to 2011, from $87 to $148. That equates 7.2 percent of family income. Obama proposes tax breaks to lighten the financial burden.
Second, Obama is highlighting the importance of paid parental leave. He pointed out in his address that the U.S. is the only advanced country that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to employees. He urged Congress to “send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do.”
Third, he tackled equal pay for women. After the Paycheck Fairness Act died this past fall in the Senate and with it efforts to ban salary secrets and eliminate pay inequality between men and women, I’m hoping women get another shot at parity.
Fourth, the president wants to create greater access to women’s health care. He acknowledged disagreements around a woman’s right to choose but still wants women to have access to quality obstetrics and gynecology.
We’ll see how these things shake out in his last two years in office. I know at least one half of America is rooting for him to make these things happen.