The second debate between President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney last week contained few new ideas about how each would promote job growth, hiring and entrepreneurship. But it did shed light on both candidates’ outlook on an issue that touches virtually all employers: pay equity for women.
American women earn 78 cents on the dollar compared to men, according to the Labor Department. Both candidates addressed a question about workplace inequality by citing their respective records on the issue. Obama reminded the audience that the first law he signed as president was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended the statute of limitations for workers bringing pay disparity cases against their employers.
“That’s an example of the kind of advocacy that we need, because women are increasingly the breadwinners in the family,” Obama said. “This is not just a women’s issue, this is a family issue, this is a middle class issue.”
Obama cited a provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires insurance companies to provide free contraception coverage for insured women.
“This is not just a health issue, it’s an economic issue for women,” Obama said. “And it makes a difference in terms of how well and effectively women are able to work.”
Romney strived to link pay equity to his overall message that he is better suited to lead an economic recovery.
Romney said that as governor of Massachusetts, he sought help from women’s groups to compile a list of qualified female candidates for cabinet positions, and that they brought him “binders full of women.”
The group he was referring to was the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus, a women’s advocacy organization that prior to Romney’s tenure as governor had asked both Romney and his Democratic gubernatorial opponent to sign a pledge to appoint more women to high level positions in the government.
The group assembled hundreds of resumes of female candidates and reached out to Romney first, not the other way around, according to the Washington Post Fact Checker.
Ten out of the top 20 positions in the Romney administration were filled by women, said former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey.