At an event Friday at the Center for American Progress, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) described her five-point “American Opportunity Plan” to boost women’s economic success by improving policies on child care, paid family leave, and minimum wage, and equal pay.
Her announcement follows initiatives launched by House Democratic members to promote women in the economy and the launch of a new campaign by progressive groups to broaden the coalition of support for such policies.
One proposal, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, would create a fund for paid leave when a family member falls seriously ill. During a panel session at the Center for American Progress Friday, Gillibrand discussed options like paid leave with executives from Google, Delloite, Catalyst, and the Small Business Majority.
Though House and Senate Republicans are sure to oppose policies like universal pre-K and a $10 minimum wage, Gillibrand told ThinkProgress she sees businesses helping move the conversation forward:
The most important thing we can do is create a national conversation about why this matters and why its good for business. Because the reality is, we heard from businesses today that have instituted paid medical leave, because they know that their employees are worth it: they’re valuable, they’ve been trained.
And so when a family needs flexibility—a mother having a new baby, or a family member whose mother or father is dying of an illness—you need that flexibility to be with your family. So we want to make sure that benefit is guaranteed and paid. And it’s not expensive, it’s the amount of a latte a week. It’s a small amount of money that will be paid in as an earned benefit, just like Social Security, so businesses small and large don’t have to do the paperwork and the difficulty of creating their own program within their own company.
Persistent advocacy is key to advancing an economic agenda for women, Gillibrand said. “We have leaders on every aspect of this agenda throughout the House and the Senate. Speaker Pelosi is one of them who’s an incredible advocate for women, families, and growing a middle class.”
With women advancing at every level of the workforce and 40 percent of women as breadwinners, upgrading federal law can help women catch up in many of the states where they face the greatest challenges.
ThinkProgress intern Christopher Butterfield contributed to this post.