Building Power: A Women’s Agenda for the 21st Century

Pete Buttigieg
Oct 24 · 4 min read

Women have always been at the forefront of American progress — especially when that progress requires struggle. From Harriet Tubman, who risked her life to lead enslaved Black people to freedom and fight in the Civil War, to Ida B. Wells, whose searing exposes of violent racism fueled the anti-lynching movement, to Dorothy Day, who protested for woman’s suffrage and built the Catholic Worker Movement to advocate for those in poverty, women have worked to ensure that America’s values apply to all Americans.

Especially in the last three years, women have challenged our country to live up to our values. We’ve watched women lead powerful movements for justice, organizing the Women’s March — the largest single-day protest in American history — insisting on the importance of Black lives, and continuing to drive the #MeToo movement. The 2018 elections marked historic gains for women in Congress, propelled by the activism and commitment of women voters — particularly Black women and other women of color.

Women are 51 percent of the U.S. population, and nearly half the workforce. They hold essential jobs, from first responders to teachers to CEOs. Most mothers work, ensuring that their families can make ends meet. Twenty-one percent of children are raised by single moms. And their work pays off for all of us — women’s record participation in the U.S. labor market over the past 50 years has sparked economic growth of historic proportions.

But progress for women has come despite systemic sexism and racism, which have excluded women from economic, political, and social power for far too long.

At the current rate, we won’t close the gender pay gap for all women — including the women of color, for whom the gap is largest — for over 200 years. The “motherhood penalty” still causes women to permanently lose income when they have a child — while men with children are more likely to be hired and given raises. Women are the majority of minimum wage earners — and at $7.25 per hour, they haven’t seen a raise in over a decade. Women today are more likely to die from pregnancy than their mothers were, and Black and Native American women die from pregnancy at rates three to four times higher than white women. Overwhelming numbers of women continue to face illegal harassment and other discrimination at work and at home, including new and vicious forms of online harassment. And women’s right to control their own medical decisions has been under assault all over the country.

A woman isn’t free in America if her boss pays her less than men who do the same job, or if she faces sexual harassment at work. She isn’t free if she has to interrupt her career because child care is too expensive, if banks are less likely to loan her money for her business, or if a lifetime of compounding bias and low wages leads to poverty in retirement. She isn’t free if she can’t make choices about her health care. And she’s not free if the political decisions that shape her life are made by people who don’t know what it’s like to be in her shoes.

The freedom of women is bound up in the freedom of all Americans.

Women’s freedom can’t depend on Washington — it can only come from systematically building women’s power in our economy, our political system, and in every part of our society. And while we must create opportunity for all women, we know that women of color, trans women and other members of the LGBTQ community, and low-income women face unique barriers that require intentional policy solutions.

That’s why, as President, I will:

  • Close the pay and wealth gaps by ensuring equal pay for equal work, ending harassment and other workplace discrimination, making available over $50 billion in capital to grow women-owned business, and eliminating the trade-off between career and family with affordable child care and paid family leave.
  • Advance women’s health and choice by enshrining abortion rights into law, ensuring every woman has access to affordable health care, and ending the maternal mortality crisis.
  • Secure women’s power and influence by accelerating ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to recognize women’s equal rights in the Constitution, appointing at least 50% women to the Cabinet and judiciary and promoting gender- and racially-diverse leadership across all sectors.
  • Build safe, inclusive communities for women and families through accountability and culture change that combat domestic and gender-based violence, particularly against trans women and women of color.

Nearly 100 years ago, American women fought for and won the right to vote. We can’t wait any longer to ensure women are fully included in American leadership and share in American prosperity. It’s time for a president who understands that freedom for women doesn’t mean incremental progress — it means lasting power.

To learn more about Pete’s plan to empower women across the country, text POWER to 25859.

The Moment by Pete for America

Notes from Pete Buttigieg, his team, and everyday Americans uniting to meet our nation’s urgent challenges.

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