As the mother of daughters and the founder of a women-owned business, I am committed to standing up for the hard-fought rights, economic independence and health and safety of all women, including low-income and women of color. Because when women succeed, the world is simply a better place.
I will fight for the prosperity of all women by closing the leadership gap and getting more women into positions of power, ensuring equal pay for equal work and preserving access to reproductive healthcare.
I will reject a status quo that often forces women to choose between being a mother and having a career by increasing access to paid family leave and affordable, high-quality childcare.
I will demand domestic abuse preventions that work, improve the way we handle sexual violence on college campuses, and combat the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.
Below are priority areas I will focus on when elected to Congress:
#1: Fight Back Against Sexual Harassment
I believe that no woman, or man, should ever have to say #MeToo.
We should not have to worry about our friends sitting in a closed-door meeting with a supervisor. Women should not have to choose between their personal safety – their dignity – and their career, often in male-dominated environments with little oversight. Allegations of sexual misconduct in Hollywood, the media and on Capitol Hill may have dominated headlines, but women everywhere across a range of industries experience sexual harassment.
According to a study from the Center for American Progress, sexual harassment is prevalent in every corner of the workforce. Low-wage service-industry jobs dominated by women, particularly women of color, and industries where men have historically outnumbered women are particularly susceptible.
Many brave women have come forward to expose their abusers. We owe them and countless silent others the attention and urgency this issue requires to create change that will live on long after the next news cycle.
My policy priorities:
- Empower Survivors: Harassers are adept at manipulating uneven power dynamics to further intimidate their victims. Furthermore, many workplaces are built on systemic barriers that prevent victims from coming forward, including unclear reporting protocols, lenient disciplinary standards, and corporate cultures that encourage secrecy and inherently threaten those who would speak out. Legislators have a responsibility to ensure that no one is silenced by policies designed to protect harassers and belittle victims. We have to develop anti-secrecy protections that empower women to speak out, end policies that allow employer retaliation, and revisit existing legislation to ensure that all employer-perpetrated harassment is strictly encompassed under law. I also support the Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act, introduced by Senators Warren and Rosen, which would force companies to disclose their sexual harassment settlements.
- Increase Funding for Support Programs: Too often, humanity gets lost in the discussion around sexual assault. Perpetrators should absolutely be dismissed, and managers held accountable for any harassment that happens under their supervision, but these steps, while necessary, do not help victims recover from the psychological and physical trauma of assault. Regardless of one’s profession, we need to ensure that workers have the resources they need to begin recovery. I propose stronger funding for counseling programs, and, as a preventative measure, know-your-rights campaigns targeted at educating employees to ensure that no one is unfairly punished for speaking out.
- Strengthen Compliance Standards: We have to level the playing field. When women and people of color have the opportunity to move into leadership roles at work, the power dynamic shifts. A wider range of perspectives and lived experiences ensure more empathy and a higher level of attention to discriminatory workplace behavior, including sexual assault. I propose more funding towards examining systemic barriers and analyzing companies’ efficacy in promoting more women and people of color.
#2: Drive a Women-Centered Economic Agenda, with Access to Reproductive Health Care at the Center
I believe healthcare decisions should be between a woman and her doctor. I will fight to ensure every woman has access to the reproductive health care services she needs and protect a woman’s right to choose.
Women’s economic security depends on having access to comprehensive reproductive health services, as well as to education, jobs with livable wages, and workplace support. We must understand the connections between economic and health issues so we can make sure all women are empowered to make the decisions that make sense for them.
My policy priorities:
- Defend the ACA: Before the ACA’s birth control benefit went into effect, contraception accounted for 30% to 44% of women’s out-of-pocket health care costs1. Without a program like this, 55 million women would have a co-pay on their birth control. Our health care should not cost more because of our gender.
- Protect Access to Abortion and Contraception: Unconstitutional bans on abortion, bans on private and public insurance coverage of abortion, and the frequent attempts to regulate abortion providers out of existence affect women where they live, not to mention using the guise of religious liberty to deny access to contraception. All of these roadblocks to appropriate avenues of care cause undue economic burden to women. We must bolster our protections under the law.
- Fight for Title X: More than four million Americans rely on Title X’s affordable family planning services for contraception education and birth control. Title X also provides for healthcare services including breast and pelvic exams, cervical and breast cancer screenings, and STI/HIV screening and treatment services. In the long run, these programs save taxpayers $7 for every $1 invested2. It only makes sense to uphold Title X, for both the health and economic benefits.
#3: Fight for Women in the Workplace: Equal Pay for Equal Work
According to state statistics, women in Massachusetts make only 82 cents for every dollar a man makes, and it is even worse for women of color — 61 cents for Black women, and Latina women earn just 50 cents. I believe we must close the wage gap and strengthen equal pay protections.
Women have outnumbered men on college campuses since 1988. They hold almost 52 percent of all professional-level jobs, have earned almost half of law degrees since 2001, and have outnumbered men in earning undergraduate business degrees. These statistics are not mirrored in our boardrooms. In fact, it is estimated that, at the current rate of change, it will take until the year 2085 for women to reach parity with men in leadership roles in our country. It is a fact that women consistently earn less than men for equal work. This policy, written or inherent, no longer reflects the reality of the American family, and in particular, does disproportionate harm to women of color.
My policy priorities:
- Paycheck Fairness Act: I support legislation, like that introduced by Senator Patty Murray of Washington, that would require greater transparency through data collection, close loopholes that encourage discriminatory practices, and, vitally, enable employees to freely discuss their pay.
- Pay Equity for All: This bill, which would prevent employers from asking prospective hires about their salary history, is a necessary step in ensuring women are compensated equally for their work, and I thank Representative Eleanor Holmes for introducing it to Congress. Women and people of color are already at a disadvantage when applying for jobs, due to conscious or unconscious biases. Women of color disproportionately bear this burden, and are more likely to be saddled with lower wages from job to job. We have to eliminate the notion that, just because a woman worked for one salary in the past, she is unqualified to earn a higher wage. When employers rely on salary history to set starting salaries, it perpetuates the stereotype that women are willing — and able — to work for less. We are systemically undermining women in the workforce, and it is far past time that we begin paying workers what they deserve.
- Staffing Equity: I am a proud founding member of a women-run company. I have been fortunate to work with many talented, brilliant women over the course of my career, and it has been powerful to work in environments where women are free to contribute and create because the office culture demands equity. I truly believe that a staff with diversity of experience and perspective can create policy that benefits everyone, and I will work towards creating a balance of gender and race on my congressional staff. While it should go without saying, I also promise to implement fair pay practices on my team; until comprehensive legislation is passed, it is our responsibility to create the workplaces we want to see.
- More Funding for Women Business Leaders: We need to provide women of all socioeconomic backgrounds with access to resources to open more lanes of opportunity in our economy. The success of female entrepreneurs in particular is incredibly important to the health of our national economy. More than 11.6 million companies are owned by women, generating $1.7 trillion in revenue and employing over eight million hard working Americans3. However, too many bright, young, qualified women are denied much-needed funding from venture capitalists and other lending institutions because male-dominated boards don’t take them seriously.
According to a report from the Center for American Progress, we’re seeing an overall lower rate of business startup since the 1990s, which is more than simply a statistic. It means that we are also losing out on untapped talent. CAP’s report found that there would be 1 million more entrepreneurs in the economy today if startup rates had kept up pace from the 1990s.
These challenges are even starker for many communities of color, for women workers, and for low-income families. The authors’ analysis shows that African American households and Hispanic households have lower rates of business ownership than white households. Single women have lower rates of business ownership compared with single men, and both have lower rates than married households.
If elected, I will fight for more grants and funding designated for female entrepreneurs, so that they may have a chance to shine and emerge as industry leaders.
#4: Protect Women’s Roles as Breadwinners (Financial and Healthcare Stewards of their Families)
I will fight for working families and make sure all women have the ability to to care for loved ones without risk of losing their jobs.
Breadwinner mothers are increasingly the norm in this country. And here in Massachusetts, breadwinning mothers make up nearly 46% of all households according to 2015 data from the Center for American Progress. The number rises to 65.7% when you include the role of women as co-breadwinners.
In addition to working and providing a paycheck to support their families, many women disproportionately assume the role of caretaker in their families, whether that be for aging parents or in-laws, or sick children, and are unable to take sufficient paid time off from work to do so. This is an issue whose time has come. It is impractical and unjust to penalize workers for unforeseen circumstances. Paid family leave increases workforce participation, earnings, and national economic growth.
We need a comprehensive paid family and medical leave policy in this country to ensure that every worker is able to take paid time off for the birth or adoption of a new child, or to care for their own illness or injury, or that of a loved one. Research shows that comprehensive family and medical leave is good for families, good for business, and good for the economy — along with boosting maternal and child health outcomes, reducing employee turnover and increasing women’s participation in the workforce.
My policy priorities:
- Gender Neutral Leave: Applying family leave programs to all genders provides several benefits. Each parent should enjoy an equal opportunity to bond with their child, care for their parent, or recover from illness. Removing gendered language from policies will abolish the stereotype that women are more likely to use services, and reduce the number of women passed over for employment.
- Job Protection: Despite certain federal protections already in place for individuals who require family leave, such as those afforded by the Family Medical Leave Act or the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, many American women find themselves forced to choose between raising a family and continuing their career. We must take steps to ensure that women’s jobs are protected, whether or not they utilize leave time. No person should have to choose between important familial obligations and keeping their job.
- Access to Affordable Child Care: Many families in America find it difficult to access quality licensed child care, and women concede their careers to care for their families. For those fortunate enough to live in an area where child care is readily available, it still does not come cheap. The average annual cost for childcare services in America is more than $10,0004. Washington has for too long failed to provide adequate subsidies for eligible recipients of existing aid programs. It is for that reason that I fully support such measures as H.R. 3773, the Child Care for Working Families Act: This bill, introduced by Representative Robert Scott of Virginia, provides for child care services for low income families. I fully support such legislative efforts at leveling the playing field and ensuring that all of America’s children get a fair start to their education. No family should have to keep their child from preschool for other early learning programs because of economic disparities, and no woman should have to choose between a career and caring for her family.
#5: End Domestic Violence
I believe too many people — particularly women — are victims of domestic violence. This has to end.
According to the National Coalition on Domestic Violence, on average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. And 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.
College-aged women are threatened by an epidemic of assault and rape in spaces that are supposed to be designated for learning and growing. 23% of undergraduate women experience violent rape, yet only 1 in 6 college-aged survivors received support from a victim services agency5. Furthermore, 90% of campus assaults are perpetrated by someone who knows the victim6. We train our children to be wary of strangers, but statistics tell us that the conversation has to develop. And it is no secret that our institutions are not equipped, whether financially or legally, to resolve this violence on their own.
While these horrifying statistics should be enough on their own to spur action, studies show that a plurality of law enforcement officers hold empirically incorrect views about rape ‐ that women “ask for it,” or “cry rape” when they’ve been rejected, and the current administration has taken significant steps to undermine what few protections we do have in place.
My policy priorities:
- Protect Title IX: Under this statute, schools that receive federal funding are legally required to remedy hostile education environments. Due process is absolutely an unimpeachable right, but the facts do not lie: people who are inclined to rape will do so again and again, and we have a moral imperative to ensure that victims have access to the systems they need to begin to heal. If victims have access to a trained campus advisor, they are more likely to complete their education. We have to build up systems of trust in academia and provide educators with the tools they need to advocate for their students.
- Pass Common Sense Gun Reform Legislation: Every year, 114,000 Americans are shot. There’s hardly a community that hasn’t been or won’t be impacted by gun violence, including victims of domestic abuse. In Congress, I’ll stand on the side of protecting our lives and fight for those laws. I will ban the magazines and assault style military weapons designed for soldiers, not citizens. I will push the CDC to conduct substantive research on the public health implications of the prevalence of firearms in America. I will push for comprehensive background checks at every point of sale. And I will fight to create a Select Committee on Gun Violence, so we can actually bring people together around this issue and come up with sensible solutions.
- Pass the Fair Housing for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Survivors Act: The relationship between housing and domestic violence is much more complicated and tragic than one might think. Between 22 and 57% of of homeless women report that domestic violence was the root cause of their homelessness7, either because they no longer felt safe in their homes or because a domestic violence incident led to their eviction.The road back to finding secure and permanent housing for a victim of domestic violence can be treacherous as well. Victims often find themselves discriminated against when applying for housing if something in their past indicates their victimhood, such as previously being housed in a domestic violence shelter, or having secured a protective order for themselves. The trauma of sexual assault or domestic violence should not be further exacerbated by victim-shaming processes. As such, we must pass the Fair Housing for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Survivors Act, in order to safeguard victims and their rights to a safe, reliable home for themselves and their families.
#6: Close the Leadership Gap
I believe that when women can bring their collective experiences to Washington, our communities will be safer, stronger, and better — and not just for women.
The American Dream is not specific to any one gender, race, or class, yet many of us wake up to a country in which our dreams are held in the hands of a group that lacks the diversity of experience and instincts necessary to lead with logic and empathy. Women’s experience shapes how they govern. And women get results. Research shows that women legislators sponsor more bills, pass more laws, and send their districts more money.
In 2017, only 19% of the U.S. House of Representatives is comprised of women. The number of women of color is even fewer — they represent 7% of the House. Yet more than 50% of America is female, and 18% of America is women of color8. Isn’t it time our country’s leadership better reflected the population they were elected to represent in Washington?
This year, the country has seen a drastic increase in the number of women running for public office. The number of Democratic women challenging incumbents in the House of Representatives is up nearly 350% from 2016, to say nothing of those running for state and local office. While this is certainly an encouraging step toward closing the leadership gap, we must look at other positions—in courtrooms, boardrooms, and C-suites across America—that are disproportionately held by men. Because if we make the world better for women, we make it better for everyone.
1. National Women’s Law Center: The Affordable Care Act’s Birth Control Benefit: Too Important to Lose
3. National Association of Women Business Owners: Women Business Owner Statistics
5. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network: Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics
7. Family and Youth Services Bureau: Domestic Violence and Homelessness: Statistics (2016)
8. Center for American Progress: The State of Women of Color in the United States