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5 Things Constantly Ignored When Talk Turns to the Gender Pay Gap

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When Ivanka Trump, daughter of presidential candidate Donald Trump, spoke about her father on the final night of the Republican National Convention, she told that nation he would work hard to ensure equal pay for equal work in the U.S. A week later, in a Facebook Live broadcast for Glamour magazine, Chelsea Clinton, daughter of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, posed a question to Ivanka, asking what exactly Trump's plans were to make this a reality.

After all, the president doesn’t create laws, Congress does. So while we expect daughters to defend their parents and tout their ideals and attract voters, the reality is that there's more than one person we need to hold accountable for improving the lives of families in the United States.

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Here are 5 things we need to do in order to move the coversation around wage disparity forward:

1. Stop thinking about the gender gap as a homogenous issue

When people want to illustrate the gender pay gap, they usually say that women make 79 cents for every $1 a man makes. But that actually masks even worse pay gap statistics. The reality is that women of color make even less than their white counterparts and are disproportionately impacted by low wages. For example, Latinas make 59 cents for every dollar a white-man makes.

There would be a faster shift to finding common sense solutions if we think of these as parent issues and not just women’s issues.

This lack of awareness and erasure of women of color, LGBTQ, parents, immigrants and other groups causes a divide among feminists and other progressives groups, which takes energy away from improving the system that is hurting all of us. The conversation needs to be inclusive rather than focus on highly educated, white, middle-class women.

2. Accept that motherhood impact salary

A study released earlier this year found that “[E]mployers are less likely to hire mothers compared with childless women, and when employers do make an offer to a mother, they offer her a lower salary than they do other women.”

This is, of course, assumes women can actually go back to work given the exorbitant cost of childcare. In some states, daycare and preschool costs more than college tuition.

3. Stop treating childcare like “mother’s” work

There would be a faster shift to finding common sense solutions if we think of these as parent issues and not just women’s issues. It is expected that women—not necessarily men—will be left to deal with who cares for children if they return to work. Of course women can—and should!—have the option to be primary caregivers and often families make this choice based on financial reasons.

But seeing childcare as strictly a motherhood issue negates the fact that that not all relationships are heterosexual, not all families are partnered and that one partner may have more of an inclination to be full-time caregiver and not fit the default definition.

We must demand that, no matter who is elected president, he or she sends a proposal to Congress that makes paid parental leave the law of the land in their first 100 days of their presidency.

4. Cost isn’t the only problem with childcare

This childcare issue isn’t just about cost, it’s about availability and quality of childcare. We cannot talk about advancing women’s pay without first talking about the struggle to find quality, affordable care. Two-thirds of women with children under the age of 6 are in the workforce. Moreover, those providing childcare are frequently severely underpaid. Childcare workers are also mostly, you guessed it, women.

So when we talk about childcare, the solution isn't a few toys at company headquarters. Instead, we need to look at the entire system (or lack thereof) of childcare in the U.S., bring in more diverse perspectives about how families are doing it and what they want and need, and understand how the entire family is impacted by a lack of viable options.

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5. Paid parental leave shouldn’t even be a discussion

We must demand that, no matter who is elected president, he or she sends a proposal to Congress that makes paid parental leave the law of the land in their first 100 days of their presidency. Despite the fact that a majority of women work outside the home, the U.S. remains one of the few countries in the world without a paid paternity leave policy. We are forcing parents to choose between bonding with their babies and making a living.

If we are nation that values families, we need economic and social policies that are reflective of that. We need to do better. We need to hold our politicians more accountable and remind them that these aren’t women’s issues but American issues. And we all need to be a part of that push.

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