It is not surprising that President Donald Trump has sought to eviscerate the Obama administration’s record of supporting gender equity in the workplace. It is astonishing, however, that Ivanka Trump has failed to have any influence on her father’s damaging policies, notwithstanding her stated commitment to be a force for women’s equality.
When Ivanka introduced her father at the Republican Convention, she vowed that they would both fight for equal pay for equal work, and stated that policies allowing women and children to thrive should be the norm, not novelties. When her father became president, she assumed an official role with a West Wing office, and a sweeping portfolio with a focus on gender inequality. Yet in failing to moderate her father’s harsh actions against women, Ivanka’s words demonstrate either dishonesty about her commitment or a complete lack of influence in her role. Either way, the result is an unfettered Trump administration agenda that hurts working women and, by extension, their families as well.
In his first few months in office, President Trump revoked Obama’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order that required companies with federal contracts to comply with identified labor and civil rights laws, stop the use of forced arbitration for victims of workplace sexual harassment or assault, and infuse transparency into salary reporting. In an uncharacteristically private ceremony, President Trump signed into law a bill that will restrict access to family planning and contraceptive support for low-income women, despite considerable evidence that access to family planning and contraception provides social and family benefits and reduces women’s poverty levels.
President Trump’s most recent action takes direct aim at the Obama administration efforts to eliminate the gender wage gap. The president halted implementation of a rule that would have enabled the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect salary data by race and gender to better understand patterns of pay discrimination.
Ivanka Trump has remained publicly silent with each rollback until now, when she issued a statement supporting her father’s latest effort to cement inequality in the workplace. It was a crushing blow to those who hoped that the First Daughter would have some ameliorating influence on President Trump’s obsessive efforts to eliminate any evidence of the Obama administration, particularly its policies supporting working families and gender pay equity.
It is hard to retain hope that Ivanka will ever influence the president’s demonstrated indifference to women’s equality. Maya Angelou famously urged that when someone shows you who they are, believe them. In her recently released book, Ivanka advised working women to build a culture of success, without any seeming understanding of what those words might mean to someone born in poverty. Her recommendation that women be the architect of their own life resonates best for women who can effortlessly afford the related design and development costs, but demonstrates little understanding of a life separate from the gracious existence she has known.
Ivanka and Donald Trump have consistently demonstrated who they are. Both have shown a comfort with saying what is expedient in the moment, while making choices that promote their own idealized images of their brand.
Ivanka’s well-developed brand as a poised woman of wealth and successful young professional is her top priority. Based on months of anti-women actions by the president, and the First Daughter’s silent acquiescence, Ivanka has made clear her priorities. Ivanka has shown us who she is, and we have sadly learned we cannot believe in her—we can only believe her.
Lauren Stiller Rikleen is president of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership, a visiting scholar at the Boston College Center for Work & Family, and author of the book, You Raised Us, Now Work With Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Teams.