I’ve been asked if I think there is a “war on women,” an expression that is increasingly finding its way into media.
According to some Democrats, Republicans are waging a war on women through policies that deny them access to federally funded birth control and abortions, and turn a blind eye to crime; even the definition of rape. And, of course, the Democrats blame Republicans for workplace discrimination. It seems the Democrats blame the Republicans for every ill that America has faced in the last two decades. Then again, the Republican leadership plays the same game and blames the Democrats for America’s economic malaise. In Washington, our politicians play the blame game rather than govern this great nation. Simply because differing views on policy issues like birth control, abortion, crime, and workplace discrimination have an impact on women does not make those policies the basis of a war on women. The war on women manufactured by media, and a few Democrats, does not exist. The rhetoric needs to stop.
But there is a war on women we should be talking about – a war of violence and an imbalance in governance.
Violence as a Weapon against Women
In some societies, women can be owned, bought, sold, traded and collected as if they were commodities. Women are sold into slavery. Stoned to death for merely expressing what they felt in their hearts. Raped without consequence to the attacker. This is happening every day in Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. It is the real war on women and it’s been going on far too long.
America has condemned such beliefs and none of us – Democrats or Republicans – continence such behavior. We condemn it. Yet it continues. Our solution? Throw money to governments and organizations. That has become America’s way to solve complicated problems. That will not work. We need to take a deeper look and try to understand why we have such difficulty finding solutions. If that means hard choices giving continued support to regimes that deny women their equal rights, then we need to make those choices. This violence must end. I will not support our government being hypocrites. Our foreign aid support must be coupled with meaningful reform.
Imbalance in Governance as a Weapon against Women
In the Senate, there are 20 women and 80 men. In the House, 79 women and 356 men. On the Supreme Court, 3 women and 6 men. In Governors’ mansions, there are 5 women and 45 men.
In the Fortune 500 companies, 4.8% of the CEOs are women. In the Fortune 1,000, it rises to a mere 5%. Women on the boards of these companies amount to only 16.9%. Yet it is repeatedly shown that Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women on their boards have significantly higher financial performance than those with the lowest representation of women. The return on investment to shareholders of the companies with the highest percentage of women is on average more than 50% better than those with the least number of women.
I can cite similar statistics from around the world and in other walks of life. Indeed, in religion and the military, representation of women in leadership has been abysmal for generations.
Wage Disparity and Job Discrimination as a Weapon against Women
No one can debate the reality that many women are paid less than men for the same jobs. This debate has been ongoing for years. Those who believe it is not a problem cite the differing lifestyles of women and the many who choose part-time jobs to be with their families. In truth, many women face the challenge of holding two jobs – mother and employee. I don’t deny that men are as important in a balanced family as women, but the same is true in the workplace. Yet the gap continues. Even the Obama Administration is not innocent. According to published reports, the medial average salary of women in his Administration is 88% of what men are paid. Are they working part-time? And his appointments to high level jobs in his Administration have gone overwhelmingly to men. The President was quick to criticize Gov. Romney’s reference to looking at “binders of women” to fill vacancies. And while I won’t deny that the Governor’s comment gave me pause, it looks as though the President could use some research to address his clear bias to hiring men. So the gap continues at the highest levels. It must stop.
A Call to Action for the Voting Majority
According to the latest U.S. Census, women make up more than 50% of our population. That has been a consistent statistic for years. And there is no reason to believe that there will be any change in the near future. Indeed, most believe the gap will increase. In 2004, women who voted outnumbered men by over 8.8 million. So why aren’t more women being elected to office?
Women control more investments than do men. They have more shareholder votes. Yet our country’s corporations continue to be dominated by men.
I’m not suggesting we need an immediate reversal where the majority switches to women. There is no reason to believe that such a reversal will create a better environment for growth and freedom. But it is clear that we need to get closer to equality in the numbers than we are now. A lot closer. That’s something I think every woman in government can agree upon, and every woman in America can support. We can do that with our votes at the polls and at shareholder meetings. And if we accomplish that, I think everyone can agree – Democrats, Republicans, men and women – that our hopes to end the bigger war on civilized society will be within our reach.