Women2Women Agenda proving the political system is not broken
Over the last three years, the women of the Republican Main Street Partnership have traveled the country to have frank discussions about politics and policy with our female constituents. We established the Women2Women Conversations Tour to let women know that, contrary to what they may hear in the media, our political system is not broken or out-of-touch. These discussions reminded us that all issues are women’s issues. Recognizing and promoting this fact will result in real change for women and their families. Building on our rallies with women throughout the country, we developed our Women2Women National Policy Agenda that we will pursue this year.
Two of the issues women highlighted on the tour are reforming our tax code and creating jobs for all Americans. We will make the tax code more simple and more fair. We will continue to encourage job growth, particularly in communities that are still struggling to recover from the 2008 economic collapse. Main Street member Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) has introduced the Investing in Opportunity Act, which would connect private capital with America’s distressed communities to create jobs and encourage investment in towns across the nation.
American women want a safe homeland, economic security, quality and patient-centered healthcare, better educational opportunities, and to play an active role at every level of the political process. Our agenda addresses these concerns raised by our constituents, who want a government that works for them, not Washington.
In recent years, we have witnessed an explosion of women-owned and established small businesses, yet women’s workforce participation rates have dropped over the past decade. Women should not have to choose between their jobs and their families.
To help parents with the difficult task of balancing a career and family life, Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.) is developing legislation to incentivize workplace flexibility. Her proposal would offer employers the ability to provide paid leave and a number of flexible work options, such as compressed work scheduling or predictable scheduling. This approach aims to allow an employer to help meet an employee’s work-life balance in a manner that is beneficial to both parties. As modern life demands more of our time and attention, workplace flexibility is an innovative and commonsense solution for working families.
We must also provide young girls the opportunity to grow in an environment that encourages them to become strong young women. As part of the Women2Women Agenda, we introduced legislation that encourages and enables young women to work hard and receive a quality education to help them achieve their goals. In fact, in February, President Trump signed Main Street Rep. Barbara Comstock’s INSPIRE Women Act into law. This bill, which found broad bipartisan support in Congress, will promote the advancement of young women in STEM fields and aerospace, in which they are currently underrepresented. Rep. Comstock has also started a Young Women’s Leadership program that has mentored 800 young women over the last four years. We are passionate about developing the next generation of women leaders and giving our daughters access to the equal opportunity they deserve.
Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) is also a leading voice on equal opportunity for women in business. As chairwoman of the Republican Policy Committee’s Working Group on Women in the 21st Century Workforce, she is tasked with identifying solutions to expand opportunity for women, increase workplace flexibility, remove barriers facing working women and empowering the next generation.
The Women2Women Agenda aims to empower women and girls to pursue higher education and furthers that mission by making college more affordable and accessible. Education and advanced training have become essential for individual opportunity and family financial stability, but student demographics have changed and more students are attending college on a non-traditional schedule. Unfortunately, right now Federal Pell Grants are only available to students in the traditional fall and spring semesters. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) is leading the legislative effort to expand the eligibility window to include summer classes and increase the possible annual maximum Pell Grant award by 50 percent. This will give low- and middle-income families the added flexibility to achieve an affordable college degree.
In working towards equality, Main Street members have had their legislation signed into law. Last Congress, Rep. Martha McSally led the fight for female veterans who were members of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) to receive equal recognition of their service and the honor of being laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery. Developed during World War II, the WASP program was a first-of-its-kind Army unit comprised of women trained to fly military aircraft so men could be released for combat duty overseas. To move forward we must recognize the contributions of those who preceded us. Giving these women veterans the recognition and equal treatment they deserve was a big win for Main Street’s congresswomen.
Main Street also found success last Congress with the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) was an invaluable member of the committee that put together the final agreement on this legislation to combat substance abuse. She was the author of a key provision in the bill that created a task force in charge of reviewing and updating best practices for prescribers of pain medication; an important measure to prevent addiction to prescription drugs.
Another successful healthcare win for Main Street, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) authored a measure included in the 21st Century Cures Act, which became law last year. Her provision provides new avenues for women and men suffering from eating disorders to seek the help they need. With increased training for health professionals and improved mental health insurance coverage, the millions of Americans affected by eating disorders will have better care and more access to treatment. This bill was the first legislation passed by the House that directly addresses eating disorders.
Outside of our legislative efforts, Main Street Republican women have created programs to work directly with young women to become empowered leaders. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) is teaching girls the importance of education, confidence and physical fitness. Her “West Virginia Girls Rise Up” program strives to get fifth grade girls to believe in themselves, to step outside their comfort zones, and encourages them work hard, and dream big.