If Ivanka Trump Wants to Support Working Mothers, She Probably Shouldn't Vote for Her Dad
Before the close of the Republican National Convention on Thursday, Ivanka Trump gave a poised and compelling speech introducing her father, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. Describing the need for more support for working families and equal opportunity for all, Trump mentioned policies that would make daycare more affordable and ensure equal pay for women. She defended her father as a "feminist," making a strong case for selecting the candidate who will champion working mothers as president.
It's just too bad her father is not that candidate.
"Gender is no longer a factor creating the greatest wage discrepancy in this country — motherhood is," Trump said. "As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put in place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. He will focus on making quality childcare affordable and accessible for all."
Indeed, married mothers face one of the largest wage disparities among American workers, a gap that won't be closed so long as they lack access to affordable childcare or the opportunity to care for their families themselves, without fear of losing their jobs. Paid parental leave for mothers and fathers, a policy common among other industrialized nations, would be one way to bolster moms who work. So would a higher minimum wage, as well as access to daycare, early childhood education, contraception and abortion — especially for the high percentage of working women with low-income jobs and kids, who act as their families' sole breadwinners.
Citing statistics on the rise of female breadwinners and the wage disparity between working mothers and most everyone else, Trump, a working mother herself, proclaimed employers should ensure that "when a woman becomes a mother she is supported, not shut out." She then presented the usual case for enacting basic policies that would make things a little easier for working parents, highlighting the links between parenthood and the pay gap, between women's access to childcare and their ability to succeed in the workforce. "Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties; they should be the norm," she added.
These policies, however, are not ones Donald Trump or the Republican Party support. In addition to presenting a 2016 platform that identifies "traditional" family structures as the foundation of society and outlines the party's opposition to minimum wage hikes, federally funded abortion and contraception, the party has historically been hostile toward working-class families and single mothers. Republicans have long demonized "welfare queens" and promoted the "traditional values" that dominate this year's platform — i.e., women staying home to raise children. Time and again, Republican lawmakers have blocked efforts to close the wage gap or denied its existence entirely; they have rejected increases to the minimum wage and failed to offer substantive plans for paid family leave, not to mention opposed access to contraception and abortion
There are plenty of reasons to doubt that Donald Trump, in particular, has any intention of doing what it takes to support working mothers. While Ivanka Trump might have claimed in her speech that "women are paid equally for the work that we do" under her father's leadership, or that wage equality has been "a practice at his company throughout his entire career," the GOP nominee's campaign was recently found to pay female staffers significantly less than men, according to an analysis by the Boston Globe.
Perhaps the candidate justifies the 35% disparity by assuming many of the women who work for him have kids. Though his daughter also described her father as "colorblind and gender-neutral" in his hiring practices, the candidate once said of his employees that the average working mom is "not giving me 100%. She's giving me 84%, and 16% is going towards taking care of children." He has also asserted employers have to be "careful" about offering paid family leave in order to stay "competitive."
As a substitute, he's recommended privatized daycare that demonstrates he has little to no idea what caring for a child actually entails. When asked about his views on childcare last year, the candidate mocked an interviewer, and at a town hall event a month earlier presented a plan for daycare — "You need one person or two people, and you need some blocks and you need some swings and some toys" — that sounds distinctly unlike anything his daughter alluded to on Thursday.
Both Donald Trump and his running mate, conservative Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, have indicated that caring for children should be women's primary work. Both have explicitly endorsed women staying home to focus on their families, rather than require time off or have jobs at all. As Donald Trump's current wife, Melania, has noted repeatedly, the presidential nominee lives out that dynamic personally, and has proudly proclaimed he "won't do anything" to take care of his children save for providing funds.
The presidential nominee has also bemoaned his first wife's dedication to her career, saying that "putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing." He also blamed his second divorce on his ex-wife's desire for him to work less and spend more time with their family. Pence too is on board with keeping mothers home: In 1997, the vice presidential candidate claimed kids with two working parents (a mother and a father, that is) experienced "stunted emotional growth."
"For years, we have gotten the message from the mouthpieces of the popular culture that you can have it all, career, kids and a two-car garage. The numbers in this federally funded study argue that the converse is true," Pence wrote in a letter to the editor of the Indianapolis Star. "Sure, you can have it all, but your day-care kids get the short end of the emotional stick."
In fact, Ivanka Trump's speech was one of the first explicit indications from a member of the Trump campaign — which hasn't been short on other examples of sexism — that the Republican nominee for president has even thought about helping out working mothers. What he has promoted quite clearly, though, is a regressive plan to "make America great again" by enforcing policies that don't simply keep things as they are, but arguably make things worse for working mothers and their families. While the candidate's eldest daughter is certainly on to something suggesting the next president do more to support women and families in a meaningful, coordinated way, it seems her dad isn't the best bet for making that a reality.