In the Tuesday night face-off, Romney said he had a strong record of hiring women, saying one key to doing so for top jobs was allowing family-friendly work hours.
“I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce, that sometimes you need to be more flexible,” he said, recalling that his gubernatorial chief of staff had two school-age children. “She said, ‘I can’t be here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o’clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school.’ So we said, ‘Fine. Let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.’ ”
Obama spoke about growing up with a single, working mother and a working grandmother who trained men for jobs that paid more than hers. He also talked about signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 — which made it easier for women to file lawsuits alleging pay discrimination — as one of his first actions in office.
Vice President Biden, campaigning in Colorado on Wednesday, picked up on the issue of whether Romney had sought female employees. “You heard the debate last night. When Governor Romney was asked a direct question about equal pay, he started talking about binders,” Biden said. “Whoa! The idea that he had to go and ask where a qualified woman was, he just should have come to my house. He didn’t need a binder.”
Polling about where women stand in the race has been a point of controversy, with seemingly contradictory data pouring in each day.
Two recent surveys — a national Pew poll after the first debate and a more recent USA Today-Gallup survey in 12 battleground states — had Obama and Romney tied among female voters, something that would be a historic shift away from a gender gap that has helped Democrats in recent elections.
A Quinnipiac University poll in Pennsylvania released Tuesday had Romney closing in on Obama there but had the president with an 18-point advantage among women who are likely to vote. But a new poll from Marquette University Law School shows Romney making big gains in Wisconsin, entirely by winning over women.
In the new Washington Post-ABC News national poll, 51 percent of women back Obama and 44 percent support Romney, with the seven-point margin a numerical, but not statistically significant, advantage for the president.
Amy Gardner in Iowa and Ohio and Jon Cohen in Washington contributed to this report.