Was there ever any doubt we would see a black man as President of the United States before a woman, any woman, of any color? If you ask a woman (many men as well), the answer would be a resounding 'No doubt about it!'
The truth is Hillary Clinton never had a chance against Barack Obama in the 2008 primary. It mattered little that she was infinitely smarter and more qualified. Aside from the improprieties and irregularities that always seemed to inexplicably favor Obama (ahem), she was a white woman running against a black man, end of story.
The selection of the lesser-qualified male candidate as the Democratic candidate of choice in 2008 (particularly by a party that claims to be so pro-women) showed the world just how tough it can be for women competing against men in the workforce. And how, very often, the more-qualified woman is overlooked in favor of the less-qualified man. So while Obama's election in 2008 proved that the nation was finally ready for a black man in the highest office, it also proved that the nation was definitely not ready for a woman in that role.
On a positive note, at least, a woman was up for consideration. That's something. As many professional women know, simply being considered, having the chance to compete, to show what you know and what you can bring to the table, is half the battle. It is fitting and more than about time that the topic of women and their place in the workforce has entered the national discourse, thanks to the second presidential debate.
Women are all very different, complete with different priorities and goals. Some choose to work. Some choose to stay home. Many choose a path that lies somewhere in the middle and enter or exit that path as circumstances change. Consequently, it is difficult to group all women together and try to ascertain what is really important to them, as a whole, at any given time. Politicians and pundits will try, because it is easier to create talking points or buy votes that way, but women know better.
Recognizing that priorities for women are not all the same, there are two that most will agree are basic. The first, and undoubtedly the highest, priority is the ability to secure viable employment, particularly essential in this high-unemployment environment. With 23 million people out of work, many of them women, finding a job, let alone a good job, is of the utmost concern. The second priority, which generally falls somewhere between second and fourth in most women's priority list, is being adequately compensated for what we do -- at least as well as our peers and male counterparts.
The priority of securing employment brings us to the phrase Romney used in the second debate, 'binders full of women'. Some would hear that phrase and smile approvingly. There he was, Governor "For-Me-It's-All-About-Jobs", talking about the importance of women and diversity in the workplace, talking about how to make certain women were considered viable candidates for high level employment, talking about helping them obtain employment by helping businesses create jobs!
Imagine my surprise to hear that wonderful phrase being mocked almost immediately, then ad infinitum, by the mainstream press, liberal bloggers and ideologues, the Obama campaign, and of course, by Obama himself. One female journalist even went so far as to describe the idea of women being put into a binder as 'icky', comparing it to pornography. Apparently, that's where the liberal mind tends to go! In the Democratic rank and file, with the likes of the disgraced former Governor Elliot Spitzer (D) covering the disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D) (both guilty of lying, cheating sex scandals), there has been some serious 'ick'. You would think one could tell the difference.
In the context of the discussion, Romney indicated that as Governor of Massachusetts, while looking to add women to his cabinet, he received 'binders full of women'. His goal was to diversify his staff and by all accounts, he succeeded. He stated, "I was proud of the fact that after I staffed my cabinet and my senior staff that the University of New York in Albany did a survey of all 50 states and concluded that mine had more women in senior leadership positions than any other state in America." This is a positive thing. So, why would liberals think this phrase and everything it stands for is something to be mocked?
A leader who sees the importance of diversity in the workplace, who attempts to have a representative workforce, who hires women, is not to be mocked. People who have mocked that phrase have absolutely no idea what they are doing, what they are railing against. They can't possibly be mocking diversity in the workplace. They can't be mocking the hiring of women. They can't mock Romney's success in accomplishing his goal. They are simply grasping at straws by hanging on to the visual of 'binders full of women'. And where their mind goes with that visual is more indicative of who they are versus who Mitt Romney is.
The day after the second debate, Obama declared, "I don't know if you were listening last night, but, see, we don't have to order up some binders to find qualified, talented, driven young women to learn and teach and thrive and start businesses." Aside from the fact that that sentence makes little sense, how does he intend to find qualified women? How will he compile them so that their qualifications can be reviewed and compared?
Maybe it is simply because he has never had to hire anyone in the way a successful business person like Mitt Romney has. Successful business people cannot just give jobs to friends and supporters like Obama can and does. Successful business people know that to succeed they have to hire the best possible talent. And the first step in that process is securing the resumes of that talent. As someone who has hired, been hired, and facilitated the hiring process, I am well aware of how it works. Trust me, if you're looking for a job or looking to advance your current position, the best place to be is in a hiring manager's binder!
Maybe Obama does not much care about hiring women at all. If it was of any real concern to him, we would certainly see many more of them in his administration. We do not. He has had four years to diversify his staff. Isn't it time we ask, 'Why hasn't he?' Perhaps Obama should remove his blinders and be willing to 'order up some binders' -- full of women!
The second issue of significance to women in the workplace is decent compensation, specifically, equal compensation for equal work. This priority is a tad more difficult to achieve because very often two workers do not bring the same qualifications, work ethic and results to the table. Two people can have the same title, but that does not mean they do the same things or are equally as valuable to the business. Other than in assembly-line type work, 'all else being equal' is difficult to gauge and leaves room for a whole lot of interpretation. Therein lies part of the problem with the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. But there is more to it than that.
President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009 and touts it as an equal-pay law. Republican opposition says it is not a law about equal pay, which they strongly support, but about opening up the statute of limitations and extending the time to file a pay-discrimination lawsuit. As such, it is primarily a boon for the trial lawyers (ironically enough, a predominantly male field where males earn approximately 15-18% more than females).
The ability to sue an employer does not necessarily lead to 'equal pay for equal work', but might instead make an employer think twice about hiring a female if presented with an equally-qualified male. So, the Lily Ledbetter Act could possibly work against the top priority of securing employment in the first place. Could the Lily Ledbetter Act be one of those infamous laws, passed primarily by Democrats, purportedly with good intentions, that yield those ever-dreaded unintended consequences? It does seem to have the makings.
Romney has been accused by the media of muddling his opinion of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Actually, he has stated his opinion clearly. While he never declared whether or not he would have voted for the legislation, he indicated he would not repeal it. That position seems pretty clear. So even if he were against it, like many other Republicans, it would not be because he is against the premise of equal pay for women (a position he has many times stated he believes in), but because it is yet another bill, poorly written and poorly thought through, that does little to advance its title cause and could quite conceivably hurt women in the long run. Generally, when Democrats pass legislation, particularly to pander to a specific voting bloc, the cost far exceeds any real or perceived benefit. It just takes them awhile to finally figure it out.