White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, who addressed BlogHer’s annual conference in 2009, posted a blog on the site at 6 a.m. Wednesday telling readers the everyday conversations they have about their workplaces and families are actually policy discussions.
“Because here's the reality: When you ask your coworker whether your company offers paid sick leave, you're having a policy discussion,” she wrote. “When you ask your boss why you don’t earn the same salary for the same work as the men in the office, you’re having a policy discussion.”
Jarrett noted that child care costs have risen 72 percent over the past 25 years, when adjusted for inflation, and nearly half of all parents say that they turned down a job because of inadequate work-family balance. “We can’t wait to hear what you have to say,” she wrote.
While there is an undeniable disparity between what women and men are paid on average, there is a debate over whether this gap stems from overt discrimination or the different lifestyle choices men and women make over which careers to pursue and whether to scale back on work to spend more time with their families.
The White House approached Stone Friday about the idea of organizing an event on the day federal taxes are due—when many Americans are focused on their personal finances — which also happens to be a day after Equal Pay Day, a commemoration aimed at highlighting the wage gap between women and men.
“We jumped all over it, because we knew it was so top of mind,” Stone said in an interview, adding that the attendees are well positioned to question Obama on these issues. “There is no one smarter than the community of bloggers and social media influencers who are dealing with these policies to make their monthly bills work out, pay college tuition bills, fill their refrigerators and fill their gas tanks.”
Obama has elevated workplace issues such as equal pay and paid leave on his domestic agenda during his second term: earlier this month Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez and Jarrett kicked off a paid leave “road show” in Seattle, as part of effort to highlight state and local initiatives on the subject.
SheKnows Media, which has 20,000 social media contributors and also includes StyleCaster and Daily Makeover, focuses more on health, fashion, popular culture and parenting issues than hot-button political controversies. But BlogHer has writers from across the political spectrum, and has featured interviews with possible GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina as well as the highest-ranking female House Republican, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.).
“We’re nonpartisan, because our bloggers are so partisan,” Stone said.
Jennifer DeCurtins, a 31-year old writer, personal trainer and yoga instructor who is attending the town hall, said her largely-female clientele is full of women “trying to juggle and find balance with being a mom and having a really successful career.”
DeCurtins, a Democrat who lives in Charlotte, said she supports the idea of “transparency” when it comes to salaries so that women can be sure they’re being compensated fairly.
But Lena Gott, a blogger based in Wake Forest who is participating in the town hall, said her experience working as an accountant has made her skeptical of calls for equal pay. Gott, who is now the stay-at-home mother of three young children, said business owners may have to lower some workers’ salaries if they have to bring them in line with those of other employees.
“You can’t just come up w an extra, magical $20,000 for workers,” Gott said. “You have to make it fit within your budget.”
But both women said they were excited to participate in an event with the president. DeCurtins posted last night about the "surreal" experience of being invited and suddenly receiving a flurry of press calls as a result.
"Tomorrow I will have the incredible honor of spending an hour with the president as a voice for all of the INCREDIBLE and STRONG women that I have the honor of reaching every day through this blog, teaching yoga and personal training," she wrote on her blog, Peanut Butter Runer.