As we approach the final days leading up to Election Day, the important role women must play in this election has never been so clear. As women continue to break down barriers and advance in society, there is a steadfast group of lawmakers and politicians who are hell-bent on putting policies into place designed to hold women back. With so much at stake, women must make their voices heard loud and clear that we won't stand for attacks on our rights, economic security, or healthcare. And the best way to get this point across is by voting.
To really put into perspective what's at stake for women, the progress women have made in the following five issue areas could be adversely impacted if Republicans take control of the Senate.
1. Equal Pay
The data on the wage gap is clear: a woman in the workplace today makes 78 cents for every dollar a man makes. This means if a man and a woman are doing the same job, at the same company, with the same title, that woman is, on average, making three-fourths the income as her male counterpart. As absurd and backwards as this may seem, many Republicans continue to deny that women are facing these types of discriminatory barriers.
Case in point: just last month, Senate Republicans unanimously blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have helped make sure women are paid equally for equal work. Their excuse? Many Republicans pointed to the Equal Pay Act, which was signed into law in 1963!! It's time for these laws to be updated so we can put an end to the wage gap once and for all.
2. Minimum Wage
Republicans recently made it clear that they think it's perfectly reasonable for a person to live in America today on an annual salary of $14,500 in their refusal to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour.
Raising the minimum wage isn't just an economic issue, it's a women's issue. How so? Women are disproportionally affected by a low minimum wage because, simply put, women comprise a large majority of minimum wage earners. Additionally, women hold the majority of jobs that work on tips, earning even less than a livable wage.
Raising the minimum wage to an actual LIVABLE wage would not only better support women and their families, but would strengthen the economy. A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute estimates that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would grow our GDP by $22 billion and create roughly 85,000 net new jobs.
Seems like a no brainer, right? Republicans don't think so.
3. Health Care
Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court ruled in one of its most controversial decisions as of late that for-profit companies can refuse to pay for their employees' contraception, as mandated under the Affordable Care Act, if they object from a religious standpoint. How did Republicans react to this decision? They not only jumped up and down and applauded it, but they even introduced a bill in the Senate reinforcing the decision!
And speaking of the Affordable Care Act, Republicans have tried - unsuccessfully - more than 50 times to repeal the bill, a bill that has and continues to expand health care access to women.
4. Supporting Families
This is such a broad topic that encompasses so many issues that it's best summed up in the words of Hillary Clinton, who recently said, "the Democratic Party is at its best, just like America is at its best, when we rally behind a very simple but powerful idea: family."
And she's right - the Democratic Party has always been the Party focused on supporting and strengthening families. Democrats led the effort to pass the Family Medical Leave Act, the Violence Against Women Act, and expand Medicaid and early childhood education programs, just to name a few. Make no mistake - every single one of these programs would be impacted if Republicans hold the power in both chambers of Congress.
5. And last but not least...we need more women
Women represent more than half the population, but hold less than 20 percent of the seats in Congress. Government should reflect the people it represents. We need more women to be elected officials. And more women are elected when more women vote.
Democrats have a history of sitting out the midterms. Maybe it's because in their minds, a lack of a presidential race means this election doesn't matter. Or maybe their frustration with the gridlock in Washington has turned them off. But with so much hanging in the balance, sitting out this election cycle is extremely dangerous - especially for women.
While leaders like Hillary Clinton are crisscrossing the country, preaching the fact that this election is between Republicans and "leaders who will fight for women and girls to have the same opportunities and rights they deserve," those words of warning and encouragement are in vain unless women get out there and exercise their constitutional right at the ballot box.
Women...get out there and vote.