“Women often work part time or leave the workforce while raising families. As a result, they have less average savings for retirement and lower Social Security benefits,” she said on the Senate floor, according to prepared remarks. “For these women, Medicare is a critical source of financial security. It keeps many of them out of poverty. The House Republican proposal will end that security.”
Representatives from some of the groups said that women, who statistically earn lower wages than their male counterparts, are being left out of the economic recovery and will be increasingly at risk if cuts to food stamp programs, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security pass.
Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, said that after age 64, men’s average income is about $31,000, while women’s is about $16,500.
“Clearly, women have been left behind,” Dorfman said. “I don’t believe that the women’s perspective and women’s experience is being given the visibility that it’s due.”
She added that women own one-third of all businesses in the U.S., and her group wants to ensure those entrepreneurs have access to the contracts and capital they need to grow. “The important thing is to make sure when we look at economics that we do not leave women out from the discussion or from the resources,” she said.
Many of the women’s advocates said they support deficit reduction but want policymakers to find cuts in military spending or alternatives to programs that women rely on for health care and basic needs.
“We support rational approaches to addressing this deficit that do not include any cuts to Social Security,” said Bobbie Brinegar, executive director of the Older Women’s League. “Social Security and Medicare are bedrock. Cuts to these programs would have an enormous impact.”
Some women’s advocates said that in general they have found the Obama administration to be responsive to their issues and were shocked to learn that a woman was not included in the talks.
“It didn’t occur to a lot of us that there wouldn’t be a woman there,” said Sherry Saunders of the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation. “I find it stunning in an administration that we feel is very sensitive to women’s issues that this could’ve happened. Certainly, there is a plethora of women who could join the discussion.”
Saunders and some of the advocates noted that in Congress, as well, women are underrepresented when compared to the general population. Women make up about 17 percent of Congress.
Perhaps that’s why when White House officials and Congressional leaders talk about job creation, the women’s advocates said, they are often discussing employment areas such as construction that are male-dominated.
“What we have seen in this recession is that men have gained 80 percent of the new jobs, whereas only 19 percent of those jobs have gone to women,” said Cynthia Harrison, vice chairwoman of the Women’s Committee of 100.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.