Women's issues became a topic of debate last night at the second presidential debate after being overlooked in the first.
This gave Republican contender Mitt Romney the opportunity to appeal to women voters, which polls show he is not as popular with.
An uncommitted female voter asked:
In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?
In response, President Obama talked about how and why he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act to help close the pay gap. However, Romney's answer failed to deliver a solution or even address the pay gap between men and women.
Instead, he alluded that employers should personally choose to hire more women, like he did when he referred to "binders full of women" in his hiring process. Somehow, he thinks that "binders full of women" will eliminate workplace inequality!
“And I—and I went to my staff, and I said, ‘How come all the people for these jobs are—are all men.’ They said: ‘Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.’ And I said: ‘Well, gosh, can't we—can't we find some—some women that are also qualified?’ And—and so we—we took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet. I went to a number of women's groups and said: ‘Can you help us find folks,’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.”
Romney's "binders full of women" phrase immediately went viral and caused a frenzy in the social media world, which took it to the next level by creating a Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr account.
To make matters worse, Romney then followed up, stating his solution to pay inequality would be strengthening the economy because, apparently, a fluid marketplace would suddenly cause employers to treat women fairly!
"We’re going to have to have employers in the new economy, in the economy I’m going to bring to play, that are going to be so anxious to get good workers they’re going to be anxious to hire women."
Slate brought up a good point dismantling Romney's theory:
If the free market alone could fix the problem, then women during boom times would have, according to Romney's logic, achieved equal pay. They did not. That's because the problem is far more complex than Romney lets on here. A little bit more flex time is nice, but it doesn't do enough to make up for the yawning gaps in affordable child care, for instance. Plus, Romney completely breezed by the continuing problem of discrimination, which is all the Lilly Ledbetter Act addresses.
Furthermore, Romney dug himself in a deeper ditch when he relayed the story about how he granted one of his female employees flexible working hours so that she could be with her family and children. This was a nice gesture, but again, how does this help working women, with or without kids, who get paid 72 cents to every $1 a man makes? Not to mention that the gap is even larger with women of color: African-American women making only 62 cents, and Hispanic women only 54 cents. Here's what he said:
“I recognized that if you're going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. 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.”
Political writer David S. Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix went on to expose the truth behind Romney's "binders full of women" comment.
The Daily Beast reports:
“What actually happened was that in 2002—prior to the election, not even knowing yet whether it would be a Republican or Democratic administration—a bipartisan group of women in Massachusetts formed MassGAP to address the problem of few women in senior leadership positions in state government. There were more than 40 organizations involved with the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus (also bipartisan) as the lead sponsor.
"They did the research and put together the binder full of women qualified for all the different cabinet positions, agency heads, and authorities and commissions. They presented this binder to Governor Romney when he was elected.”
Now Romney did, according to Bernstein—who cited information from MassGAP and MWPC—have 14 women among his first 33 senior-level appointments (42 percent), but Bernstein then cited a UMass-Boston study that found that “the percentage of senior-level appointed positions held by women actually declined throughout the Romney administration, from 30.0 percent prior to his taking office, to 29.7 percent in July 2004, to 27.6 percent near the end of his term in November 2006. (It then began rapidly rising when Deval Patrick took office.)”
And at Bain Capital, which Romney ran for 15 years until 1999, there are only seven women among the company’s 87 managing directors and senior executives, or 8 percent.
Romney's comments and "solutions" to inequality are out of touch with the issues that women face. He revealed at the debate that he can neither relate to the struggles women face, nor does he really care to implement real solutions. He delivered a top down, sexist approach that would only set women back if he became president!
Check out the memes that the social media world created to mock Romney's "binders full of women" event above and the video clip of the debate below.