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Valerie Jarrett: We need a President who understands the challenges of working women

November 2, 2020, 6:02 PM UTC
Valerie Jarrett: We need a President who understands the challenges of working women
A woman works at a discount clothing store in Orlando. Millions of women have lost their jobs since the coronavirus pandemic began, writes Valerie Jarrett.
Jeffrey Greenberg—Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Last week, President Trump addressed his supporters at a rally in Michigan and made his version of an appeal to women, proclaiming: “We’re getting your husbands back to work.” When I watched it, I thought: How, in 2020, could the President of the United States only view women’s lives through the lens of their husband’s ability to provide for them? How could he ignore the devastating impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on working women—and particularly women of color?

Millions of women have lost their jobs since the pandemic began, causing a she-session. Nearly 900,000 women left the workforce last month alone—four times the number of men.

Trump doesn’t have a plan to contain the virus or grow our economy. He has been telling us that we are “turning the corner”—and yet we are seeing spikes all over the country. Make no mistake: Women who are often the sole or primary breadwinner in their families are paying a particularly painful price. And many other women have been forced to make the difficult decision to exit the workforce because of Trump’s failure to have a plan to safely reopen schools and childcare centers.

We need a President who understands and is prepared to address the challenges of working women. And in this election, that candidate is my friend Joe Biden.

As the former chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, I had the opportunity to work closely with Joe during my time as a senior adviser to President Obama. And I know how deeply he cares about women getting an equal shot at earning a fair wage.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have a plan to effectively contain COVID-19 and get us safely back to work and our children back to school. And once they do, they’ll build our country back better and move us toward an inclusive, equal, and just society for all Americans.

And recognizing that our nation faced a caregiving crisis long before the pandemic hit, Joe and Kamala have a caregiving agenda that is central to their economic recovery plan. They will make high-quality childcare more affordable and accessible, providing every 3- and 4-year-old free preschool, ensuring low- to middle-income families won’t spend more than 7% of their income on high-quality childcare for young children, and offering an option of an $8,000 tax credit for childcare. 

They will expand access to dignified care for aging family members and people with disabilities by eliminating the current wait list for home and community-based services under Medicaid and helping states invest in innovative new programs, like those that make homes safer, and those that provide meals, day programs, and rides to appointments. And they will provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for all workers. 

Their plan will ease the squeeze on working families that are raising their kids and caring for aging loved ones, get their loved ones the care and education they need, and create millions of good jobs for caregivers who have been undervalued for too long.

When my daughter was young, I experienced the same structural and cultural challenges faced by far too many working moms—which force us to compete on an unequal playing field. I realized it would be impossible for me to thrive, especially after I became a single mom, without the benefits of a workplace that values diversity and an inclusive culture. When women succeed America succeeds, and we need a President who is in our corner—not a President who views us through the lens of husbands and ignores our full potential.

If this economy is going to recover from this pandemic, we need women to help keep the country running. Joe and Kamala get that. They respect the contributions of women to our economy and communities. They are competent, decent, empathic leaders who will support and stand with us. And they’ll always ensure we have a seat at the table—from making sure the federal workforce looks like the country it serves, to creating a White House Council on Gender Equality, to making sure the needs of women and girls are front and center in the federal government’s efforts to work for all Americans.

As Joe often says, he is campaigning as a Democrat, but he will govern as President for all of America. If you care about ensuring women thrive in the workforce; if you care about building this economy back better; if you care about your economic future, there is only one ticket that represents your interests: Joe and Kamala’s.

They will get us all back to work.

But first, let’s get to work electing this historic ticket. Let’s vote. 

Valerie Jarrett was the longest-serving senior adviser to President Barack Obama, overseeing the White House Office of Public Engagement and Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, and chairing the White House Council on Women and Girls.