- PositionGovernor of Montana
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock joined Fortune for a video interview before he ended his Presidential campaign on Dec. 2. 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 mandatory paid family and medical leave? And if so, what is your proposal to make it happen?
Bullock: I do believe that the United States of America should have paid mandatory family and medical leave, and have actually come out supporting the FAMILY Act, which would provide about 12 weeks of leave, not only for the caregiving of a child but also as more and more of us become caregivers with our parents and others.
About a quarter of women in this country actually have to be back to work within 10 days of giving birth. Increasing the opportunities for family leave not only will help the family, also it’ll reduce child mortality along the way. As an industrialized nation that actually takes care of its people, it should be a national program, and it’s time that we do that now.
In Montana, I supported legislation along the way. And I think all across this country you’ve seen those actions. There are good bills introduced in Congress right now. [We need] the recognition that this shouldn’t be a political issue.
What will you do to ensure that families who need it have access to safe, affordable childcare?
As I fought for a universal pre-K program in my state, it was amazing how many folks were saying, “I actually have to choose between working and a quality program.” Knowing that even a universal or quality preschool program can cost more than college tuition, families shouldn’t be making that choice.
I think a number of steps should be taken. First, we have to guarantee a quality pre-K program for everyone in this country, and that money should be coming from the federal government. It’s more than just the opportunity to ensure that we have family members than can stay in the workforce. We know that 90% of a child’s brain is developed even before they enter into kindergarten, and if you’re not kindergarten-ready you’re four times more likely to drop out of high school if, at the end of the day, you haven’t caught up by third grade.
If we’re really talking about what we can do for that next generation, quality pre-K is part of it. But it has to be more than just [ages] 4 and 5. Because even a quality day-care program can have significant costs. There are existing federal programs that help subsidize those, but that’s another area where we should be making greater federal investments so nobody’s choosing between either having to drop out of the workforce or have their kids in less than an enriching program.
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?
I don’t think everywhere from Congress to Fortune 500 companies have done enough to address sexual harassment in the workplace. Look, on the one hand right we have Title VII, we have the Civil Rights Act.
This is one where laws aren’t going to solve all of it. But what we’ve seen over the last handful of years is that courageous women have stood up and said no one should have to expect harassment in the workplace. It’s really changed our overall national conversation about this. I think the laws should always work, and as President would certainly work at the federal level both to protect women in the federal workplace and strengthen whistleblower laws.
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?
As governor, when I first came in, I formed an equal pay for equal work commission. The notion that it’s over 50 years since the Equal Pay Act was first passed at the federal level, and we still are in a situation where women are making on average 80 cents on the dollar to men for doing the same work—or if you’re a woman of color about 60 cents on the dollar. There are some things that you can take even beyond the legislative domain, like encouraging companies and government—like I did with state government—to do pay audits.
We should actually pass the Paycheck Fairness Act so at the end of the day if someone’s trying to find out what other people at the workplace are getting paid, they won’t be punished. We need to be encouraging individual companies to stop asking that question about salary history during interviews. One of the things that I did in Montana is actually highlighting all the companies who would take an equal pay pledge, that would actually sign up for notions of transparency, doing the pay audits, ensuring that we’re making a more equitable workplace.
So the leadership can come both from the government, but also from the private sector. Because there are a lot of companies that are doing good work.
Whether every company should have to—private and public—report exactly what the wages are for their individuals, I don’t think that I would go that far at this point. But anything we can do to add that transparency and sunshine, I think at the end of the day will help eliminate the pay gap.
It was the Kennedy days when we said we were going to solve this. And 60 years later, that we’re still in this position demonstrates that while strides have been made, there’s still a lot more to do.
Do you support policies that require corporations to have women and other underrepresented groups on corporate boards? Why or why not?
As governor of Montana, I appoint people to everything from education boards to boards of plumbing and outfitters. From that perspective, I always find that the diversity of the conversation is better with diverse boards.
You’ve seen California as an example. The California model is significant because it’s at least an assurance of one voice. I don’t think we can legislate all of this through. [We should also] hold up those examples where boards of directors and senior management reflect the diversity of the workforce.
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 have sort of the overall legal frame that anybody should get accommodations to do their job under the [Americans With Disabilities Act]. But [we should recognize] that there are different challenges, certainly in the workforce, for women who are pregnant. We really do have to take a look at what the jobs are and how we can make accommodations. No woman should have to leave a job because for that time of pregnancy she can’t actually perform that same position that she may have held along the way.
We need to look at where we’ve fallen short at the federal level and try to make sure that everybody shouldn’t have to be thinking about leaving her place of employment just because of pregnancy, and that accommodations are made so that she can still contribute to that company while at the same time being safe along the way.
This project was published on Jan. 28, 2020.