The Women’s March does not stand up for all women; these policy proposals do

This past Saturday (January 19), women across the U.S. participated in an annual protest called the Women’s March whose mission is “to harness the political power of diverse women and their communities to create transformative change.”

Despite the progress American women have made over the past several decades, we still face real challenges. We need to work on dismantling systems that impede women’s ability to advance. We need to push for respect, civility, fairness, empathy and diversity.

But that requires representing, and respecting, all women. This is where the Women’s March movement fails.

Instead of empowering and celebrating the voices of women with different thoughts and political ideologies, the movement silences them and is regrettably divisive. Its obsession over identity politics distracts from focusing on economic policy reforms that will give all women more choice and opportunities.

Here are several proposals from a report by the Independent Women’s Forum (“Working for Women”) that will help advance women’s economic prospects and modernize policy to support all women.

Economic Opportunity

 Women have diverse work preferences, but government red tape diminishes women’s job opportunities and limits their earning potential.

Policy Solution: Fix Tax Brackets to Make Work Pay for More Women

Currently, married women often face among the highest marginal tax rates when they enter the workforce because the first dollar they earn is taxed at the rate of their spouses’ last dollar earned. In other words, this means that even though the wife may not be the primary breadwinner, she is taxed at her husband’s much higher tax rate.

To address this marriage penalty and reduce the marginal tax rate for married women, lawmakers should adjust the tax brackets so that married couples are allowed twice the income before crossing into a higher tax bracket. This would help eliminate the disincentive to marriage and reduce tax rates for many married women.

Minimum wage laws intended to increase the earnings of new workers can keep these workers from entering the job market.

Policy Solution: Create More Employment Opportunities for New Workers

[U]nfortunately, the minimum wage can backfire by cutting out those first rungs, making it harder for those with fewer skills and education to find jobs and start developing the experience necessary for economic advancement.

Congress, states, and localities should forego additional increases to the federal minimum wage and adopt policies that make it easier for businesses to hire employees, particularly those with fewer skills or limited education, who need the opportunity to get job experience.

Pay Equity and Combatting Discrimination

Workplaces where women receive fair treatment and fair compensation based on performance and merit, not sex, are a must. There is a “wage gap” between what male workers earn versus female workers, and while it’s not the 80 percent difference often cited, solutions to discourage discrimination and maximize economic opportunity are still needed.

 Policy Solution: Strengthen Protections in the Equal Pay Act

Lawmakers can help eliminate current ambiguities in the Equal Pay Act to better protect workers and build a better understanding among businesses of their duties under the law. Under current law, employers can justify pay differentials between men and women if they are attributable to “any factor other than sex.” To clarify the limits of employers’ defense, the Equal Pay Act should be amended so that differences must be related to “any business-related factor other than sex.”

Even though pregnant women are protected against discrimination and employer retaliation, there are still ambiguities concerning what accommodations employers must make.

Policy Solution: Clarify the Pregnancy Discrimination Act

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 was intended to help women continue working while pregnant. However, ambiguities in the law fail to make clear the expectations for how employers must accommodate pregnant workers. A simple change to the existing Pregnancy Discrimination Act can clarify that a pregnant worker must receive the same accommodations as other workers with similar abilities and limitations.

To read all of the policy proposals in their entirety, click here.