Affordable child care, paid maternity and sick leave, equal pay for women, and women’s health care — these are all long-standing issues with one thing in common. They affect women, and more importantly, they were all focal points in President Obama’s State of the Union address.
Here are four ways women's lives may be affected, as detailed in the 2015 State of the Union:
1) Child Care
With the majority of American couples working long hours at a low wage, Obama put special emphasis on the issue of child care, favoring low-income and middle-class American families who work and can’t afford child care.
“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.”
Obama stated he wants to make child care more affordable and available, allowing low-income and middle-class families to have “a new tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year.”
But will it work?
Obama based his ideas on data from World War II, when men would go to war and the women were encouraged to work in the factories to support the war effort, making the need for childcare more pertinent then ever.
The federal government gave grants to families and supported day cares nationwide for those able to prove they were supporting the war effort. This allowed mothers to work and support their husbands overseas, while aiding the economy.
Now, Obama sees a similar issue.
Women work to support their families and the economy, but can’t make ends meet or afford day care, an expenditure costing $11,666 a year, on a national average.
It is hard to say whether or not the plan will actually succeed or take place before the end of Obama’s final two years in office, due to the fact that he did not outline a direct budget proposal to support the plan.
2) Paid Maternity/ Sick Leave
While many jobs offer maternity leave, many don’t. On top of that, even more jobs require you to dip into vacation days if you’re feeling under the weather. The issue here, as Obama stated, is that we are the ONLY advanced country in the world that doesn’t offer this for the people who sustain this economy.
“Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave,” he said, which according to the White House are usually part-time, low-income, small business or service industry workers.
Almost 74 percent of full-time workers have some sort of paid sick day and only 24 percent of part-time workers have anything of the sort.
According to the President, this needs to change because without paid sick days it “forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home.” He proposed that individual states adopt “paid leave laws.”
The skeptics believe that it is farfetched. It was not on the ballot last November, but the President presented a challenge to put the vote to pass it in Washington.
3) Equal Pay for Women
The gender pay gap has always been a very real thing. Women have never made as much money as men when compared by any number of factors such as age, education or race. In 2013 a study was conducted by the American Association of University Women.
Their findings were broken down to one key component — women earn 78 cents to every dollar a man earns, a 22 cent gap (22 percent). The gender wage gap varies by state, profession and race and only increases with age.
Obama addressed this issue from the standpoint of a family — nothing helps families more than more money. But in order for that to happen Obama said, “Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work.”
Although discrimination by gender and old habits die hard, as Obama said, “Really. It’s 2015. It’s time.”
4) Women’s Health Care
Although it may have seemed to be the least of all the women’s issues discussed in the address, women’s health care remains a controversial topic, and President Obama knows that.
“We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows.”
In 2013 teen birth rates were down by 10 percent from the previous year, still accounting for 27 births to every 1,000 girls from 15-19 years of age (presented as an average for all ethnicities).
Abortions, although also decreasing in number, are still estimated to take place thousands of times daily in the United States. While you can’t prevent teens from having sex, or from deciding to terminate the pregnancy, President Obama wants to insure that “every woman should have access to the health care she needs.”
Child care: The federal role during World War II. CRS. Retrieved Jan. 21,2015.
How much you'll spend on childcare. National Association of Childcare resource and referral agencies. Retrieved Jan. 21,2015.
Who doesn't get paid sick leave? CNN. Retrieved Jan. 21,2015.
The simple truth about the gender pay gap (fall 2014). AAUW. Retrieved Jan. 21,2015.
National and state data. The National Campaign. Retrieved Jan. 21,2015.
Edited by Jody Smith