Presidential candidate Andrew Yang joined Fortune for a video interview. The following transcript of that conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Fortune/Time’s Up: Do you believe that the United States should have comprehensive paid family and medical leave and, if so, what is your proposal to make it happen?
Yang: Here’s the list of countries that do not have paid family leave for new mothers: The United States of America, Papua New Guinea. That’s the entire list. You know who got paid family leave for new moms in the last year? Swaziland, Lesotho, and Liberia. That’s how bad the United States is on this issue.
We need to pass paid family leave for new parents as soon as possible. Six months for any parent for you to take when your child is born. As President it will be my pleasure to sign paid family leave for all new parents to get us off that list and leave Papua New Guinea alone.
How will you ensure that families who need it have access to safe, affordable childcare?
My wife, Evelyn, and I experienced this firsthand. We have two young boys who are 7 and 4; one of them has special needs. And it’s very hard for many families to access affordable and quality childcare around the country.
No one wants to put their kids in the situation where they’re not going to be taken care of in the right way. So we need to put more resources to work in our communities so that access to affordable childcare goes way up. There’s actually a desert of quality affordable childcare options in many, many parts of the country. This is a place where the federal government can help. We should put federal resources to work so that communities can actually make this childcare more accessible for all of us.
If it’s subsidized at a high enough level, which it should be, and will be under my administration, then you don’t have that conversation where one of the parents says they should stay at home because they’re not making enough to pay for childcare.
Do you think institutions—from Congress to Fortune 500 companies—have done enough to address sexual harassment? What have you done, and what will you do, to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace?
Sexual harassment is still rampant in most of our large corporations and certainly in our government institutions. And one big way we can change this is by having transparency where you can’t have women negotiating away their ability to talk about what happened to them and their harassment. You can’t have legislators or CEOs burying these complaints and then saying, “Hey, we’ll give you some money but you have to stay quiet.”
We run our organizations by this bottom-line mindset that makes everything revolve around the money. What happens then, is if you have bad actors who are making lots of money for their firm or their company, they can do no wrong. That ends up leading to cultures where if they harass women, then the natural inclination is just to sweep it under the rug rather than correct it. We have to have our organizations actually revolve around multiple interests and not just profits above all else.
Women in the U.S. earn 80 cents on white men’s dollar in wages, a gap that gets even wider for black women, Latinas, and Native American women. What is your plan to work with employers to close the pay and opportunity gap for women, including women of color, LGBTQ women, and working mothers?
First, we need to have equal pay for equal work at the government level. If you’re working in the government, then we can legislate that and make it happen.
For companies, it’s harder just to legislate. One thing that would be a huge help is that oftentimes women don’t know how much they’re being underpaid relative to their male counterparts. So we need to have wage transparency where workers cannot be punished for sharing how much they’re being compensated with each other.
The most impactful thing we could do for women of color and women across the board would be to have a freedom dividend of $1,000 a month that goes to every single American. You’d have many more women entrepreneurs who are successfully able to start businesses. And they wouldn’t need to necessarily go to some male investor looking for the money because the revenue would be right there in the community.
If we put money into everyone’s hands, it starts to value the kind of work that my wife does with our boys, one of whom is autistic—the kind of work that women are doing every single day.
When you think about the impact of technology on the workforce, you think about manufacturing, which was two-thirds men. But the reality is this next wave of automation is going to consume administrative and clerical and office jobs, the majority of which are women. The majority of retail jobs are filled by women, and retail is getting decimated by new technologies. In this era of historic change, putting a dividend of $1,000 a month into our hands is a necessary step.
Do you support policies that require corporations to have women and other underrepresented groups on corporate boards? Why or why not?
I think the fact that having one woman on a corporate board is a problem for companies—it just shows how absurdly imbalanced the board environment is. Having a requirement that at least one woman is on the board of directors or the executive board, and as a proportion of the number of board members, would just help these organizations operate more equitably and efficiently.
Other countries have seen that. If you are a responsible organization, you should have women on your board anyway, so having a rule in place shouldn’t make a difference to you.
Would you—and how would you—propose to strengthen protection for people who need accommodations to do their jobs while pregnant or who are discriminated against because of their pregnancies at work?
We need to protect pregnant women in the workplace. I feel very passionately about this because my wife, Evelyn, [breastfed and] pumped for many months, and I saw just how arduous that was and how you had to schedule it consistently. Doing it in a work environment you need to have accommodations, you need private spaces for women to be able to pump as needed. And this should be built into any modern company at this point. I would love to be able to regulate to protect any pregnant woman from some sort of discrimination in the workforce.
This project was published on Jan. 28, 2020.