Under the Trump Administration these past four years, the bold advances that women have made over the past decades, particularly those of our Black, Indigenous, Women of Color, Latinx, trans, and gender non-conforming relatives, have come under threat of regressing. We know the first 100 days are crucial in setting the tone and establishing priorities for any administration. This is why during this time, the National Organization for Women (NOW) and Black Women’s Blueprint will be bringing these voices to the forefront as part of a listening and discussion series, to share the issues that matter most to us – and the issues we need the Biden-Harris Administration to prioritize as part of a feminist agenda. As part of this series, we’re pulling together big ideas from these sessions for NOW’s blog Say It Sister! in order to share the changes we need to see and policies we need to fight for all-in-one place. The next step after listening is doing.
For our first event in this series, we discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women, from their jobs to their health. Our expert panelists were Lisa J. Pino, an attorney and advocate who now serves as the Executive Deputy Commissioner at the New York State Department of Health where her focus is the COVID-19 operational response for 19.5 million New Yorkers, and Fatima Goss Graves, a longstanding activist with the National Women’s Law Center where she now serves as President and CEO. Below are the actions the new administration and Congress must take to mitigate and start to reverse the effects of the pandemic on women:
- Raise the federal minimum wage: Women, especially Women of Color, disproportionately work for a minimum wage, which in many states is the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. This is not enough to live on in a time of economic prosperity, let alone during a pandemic and a recession. Raising the federal minimum wage to at least $15 an hour as per the Raise the Wage Act and the Biden administration’s COVID-19 relief bill is crucial to keeping women afloat during this difficult time and giving them a fighting chance in the recovery.
- Affordable, accessible childcare: Another economic burden of the pandemic on women has been additional labor while caring for children who would otherwise be in school. Under normal circumstances, women already do far more childcare than men, and this has been exacerbated by the pandemic and the necessity of staying home. This, along with other pandemic-related factors, has led to four times as many women as men dropping out of the labor force this past September and is slowing and even starting to reverse our progress in narrowing the wage gap. If we want women to be able to bounce back in the labor force, we have to provide affordable, accessible childcare.
- Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act: With so many people staying in their houses because of the pandemic, domestic and intimate partner violence has been on the rise. We need to provide violence survivors – who are disproportionately women and gender non-conforming people but include men – with the resources they need to deal with and escape their abusers. Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, following the lead of the 2019 version of the bill, would do just that: provide housing protections for survivors of sexual assault, create a new position in the Department of Housing and Urban Development focused on domestic violence, and fund programs that help survivors gain and maintain economic independence.
- Fund research into racial and gender health care inequities and solutions: The COVID-19 pandemic has made painfully clear the preexisting inequities baked into American health care systems and institutions. The story of Dr. Susan Moore, among so many others, have shown how the pain of Black women is dismissed and how they receive a lower quality and lower level of care. We have to find out why this inequity is so engrained into our health care institutions across the country and how they can improve their processes and outcomes in order to close this gap.
You can watch a recording of the full event here.
Check out future events in this series here.