Suzy Khimm, Katie Packer Gage and Emily Tisch Sussman discuss a new report that things are heating up between Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush.
Gender — the issue that Hillary Clinton struggled to find her balance on during her 2008 campaign — is front and center as she prepares for a possible 2016 presidential run.
It is, in many ways, a remarkable evolution for a female politician once bedeviled by gender politics to the self-defined “pantsuit aficionado and glass ceiling cracker” of today.
For much of this year, Clinton has spoken with ease — and little controversy — about female empowerment. At Tina Brown’s ‘Women in the World’ conference in April, Clinton declared that the “double standard” for women was “alive and well.” In countless public appearances, she has opened up about how that standard played out in her own career: from being underestimated by male colleagues as a young lawyer to the advice given to career women her age that they should keep family pictures off their desks.
The former Secretary of State has turned scrutiny about her scrunchies, headbands and hairstyles into laugh lines. She has poked fun at the sexist slights of foreign leaders—like that of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who told her he was briefed that she only wore her hair back when she was in a “bad mood.”
She often advises young women to handle criticism by developing skin “as tough as a rhinoceros.” And she rarely gave a speech this fall without reminding audiences she was soon to be a grandmother. The tableau was complete when she tweeted a softly lit image of her cradling newborn Charlotte while Bill Clinton beamed over her shoulder.
While Republicans had a huge lead among male voters in the midterm election, women were pretty much split between the parties.
The “War on Women” — a Democratic strategy to blast Republicans on social issues in the 2012 elections — has morphed into a pocketbook pitch with both parties claiming the high ground as they try to win over critical female voters in upcoming midterm elections.
Republicans plan to use the economy to target single women who may not typically vote GOP, including recent college graduates, said Christine Matthews of Burning Glass Consulting, an all-female Republican firm.
“But conservatives say Democrats are using the “misleading” wage gap to galvanize women voters in an election year. Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) recently called the equal pay issue “nonsense” that distracts voters from “substantive” issues, and Katie Packer Gage, a Republican consultant who helps candidates appeal to women voters, told Politico that she tells her candidates to hit Democrats with the distraction argument.
“The president, Democratic lawmakers and progressive activists use this faux holiday to convince women they are routinely suffering massive wage discrimination,” Schaeffer said, noting that comparing men’s and women’s wages is like “comparing apples to oranges.”
Republican strategist Katie Packer Gage, who focuses on these issues at her firm Burning Glass Consulting, said the party is making improvements. She pointed to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus’ swift condemnation of Mike Huckabee earlier this year after he made comments that Democrats think women can’t control their libidos.
“When women hear that, they think — wow, the Republican Party is worth listening to because they speak out against sort of buffoonish comments like that,” Gage said.
Editor’s note: Katie Packer Gage was the deputy campaign manager on the 2012 Romney for President Campaign, and is a partner at Burning Glass Consulting, an all-female GOP political consulting firm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
(CNN) — 2014 is an election year. We know this because, once again, the Democrats are out in force with voices raised, full of outrage, trying to convince women that new laws are needed to ensure that they receive equal pay for equal work.
Equal pay for equal work. Sounds pretty simple, right? We all agree that a woman doing the same job as a man should not be paid less just because she’s a woman.
Unfortunately, the broader issue is not that simple. What if one employee has more education? What if that employee has been with the company longer or has more experience?
These are questions that courts have been mediating since 1963 as companies have faced lawsuits over gender discrimination with regard to wages.
Why 1963? Because that is when the Equal Pay Act was signed into law by President John F. Kennedy. The law says that “no employer shall discriminate between employees on the basis of sex.” And it passed the House that year by a 362-9 vote. That’s right, nine Democrats voted against it.
Democrats highlight equal pay in political push
For the past two election cycles, Democrats have tried to paint Republicans as backward cavemen on this issue as part of their so-called “War on Women,” claiming that Republicans don’t care about women because they opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Never mind that the Ledbetter Act had little to do with the premise of equal pay for equal work and everything to do with the time limit for trial lawyers looking to exploit a potential claim.
Democrats consistently ignore data from neutral sources that indicates that when you actually compare men and women with the same background and education doing the same job, equality of pay has been largely achieved. PayScale, a compensation data company, has shown that in careers from software developer to nursing to construction project manager to human resources administrator, women are within 1% to 4% of men in terms of pay equity.
Obama to strengthen equal pay protections
However, much of the research on women voters in recent years supports the notion that women believe that men get paid more for the same job than women do. There are several reasons for this: 1) personal experience, 2) friend to friend examples and 3) Democrat politicians with manufactured data perpetuating it.
So what is a Republican candidate to do?
First, every Republican should affirm, without hesitation, support for the concept of equal pay for equal work. There should be no perceived daylight between Republicans and Democrats on this basic value.
Democrats seize on equal pay as midterm issue
Second, every Republican should remind voters that they support the Equal Pay Act. They should affirm that, had they been in Congress at the time, they would have voted to pass it and that the only “nay” votes recorded that day came from Democrats. And Republicans should remind women that if they are not receiving the equal pay that they deserve, the law is on their side and that bad actors should be vigorously prosecuted.
Third, all Republicans should know their facts. Be prepared to challenge the media and their opponents when they try to claim that some new piece of legislation is necessary to ensure equal pay. Not every problem in America can be fixed by Washington. Every disparity that exists in the workplace is not an opportunity for a new piece of legislation.
Fourth, every Republican should celebrate companies that have decided it is good business to have a diverse workplace. We should applaud those that have gone out of their way to attract women and give them a rich and robust work experience.
And there are plenty of great examples in the Forbes list, “The 10 Best Companies for Women in 2014”:
— IBM, which has a Reconnections Initiative that tries to bring women who left to have children back to IBM.
— Marriott, which has an impressive 55% female workforce and 58% female management team.
— Ernst & Young, which has a mentorship program where senior level women pursue opportunities on behalf of younger women within the company.
As we celebrate these success stories and condemn bad actors, workplace experiences for all women will improve.
Finally, all Republicans should support initiatives to encourage young girls to enter traditionally male-dominated fields such as science, technology, engineering and math. These important STEM fields are crucial to our country’s future and provide incredible opportunities for women to achieve high earnings.
As of last month, there were 4.7 million unemployed women in this country. What is sad indeed is the willingness by Democrat candidates to use the issue of pay equity as a political football to change the subject from that sobering statistic and the fact that women can’t keep their insurance plans or their doctors because the promise of Obamacare turned out to be a lie. These are the real challenges facing women today.
But the truth can be inconvenient when it doesn’t fit into the Democrats’ narrative of a trumped up “War on Women.”
“Republican consultant Katie Packer Gage, whose firm is geared to help her party appeal more to women, said women believe they are paid less than men, and says Republicans should speak out strongly in favor of equal pay for equal work. Further, she said, they should say the Paycheck Fairness Act, but press the idea that the bill won’t be enough to change matters.
“Ever notice that the so-called Paycheck Fairness Act is about 10 times longer than the bills originally surrounding pay fairness?,” she said. “It’s so obviously a political statement. In an honest world, this bill would be called the ‘trial lawyer job security act.'”
“Katie Packer Gage, a Republican consultant who started a firm last year geared around helping her party appeal to women, acknowledges that from the data she has seen, women do believe that they get paid less for the same job men do. She blames that on anecdotal evidence shared among women and a disinformation campaign from Democrats.
The only way to fight that, Gage says, is for Republicans to move quickly to speak out strongly in favor of equal pay for equal work, eliminating any rhetorical distance with Democrats, and then remind voters they support the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Then, Gage said, Republicans need to press the idea that the bill won’t be enough, and that these problems can’t be fixed by that legislation — or by anything else likely to come out of Washington.”