Last night, Ivanka Trump claimed that as president, her father would fight for equal pay, affordable childcare, and labor laws that lead to greater equity for women and working families. One of three things was happening here: (a) She accidentally took a page from Hillary Clinton’s playbook; (b) Donald Trump has an entire women’s platform he’s never spoken of; or (c) she was telling something between a white lie and pants-on-fire untruth in a desperately-needed appeal to women voters. Given her father’s silence on work-family policies, which are a cornerstone of his Democratic opponent’s campaign—not to mention his countless displays of unapologetic misogyny—I’m banking on the third option. But it was a very clever move.
If Trump did have any policy ideas on work-family issues, it wouldn’t be that weird if we didn’t know the details. After all, we know almost no details about any policy stance he has espoused over the last year, and last night provided no window into exactly how he would realize his vision for the country. But Trump has almost never talked about women’s issues, and when he has, it hasn’t been good news.
Here’s the little we do know about Trump’s stances on issues that impact the economic well-being of women and their families:
- On paid family leave he’s said, “I think we have to keep our country very competitive, so you have to be careful of it.” The idea that mandating family leave would harm competitiveness is a favorite among conservatives, but there’s plenty of research to show that failing to do so is actually bad for business.
- On equal pay, he’s said that women who “do as good a job” as men should get paid equally, basically suggesting the persistent gender pay gap will just sort itself out if women start performing as well as their male peers. Meanwhile, a recent analysis found that the Trump campaign was paying its male staffers a third more than its female staffers. And last year, in an interview with Mika Brzezinski, Trump said, “When you have to categorize men and women into a particular group and a particular pay scale, it gets very—because people do different jobs… It’s very hard to say what is the same job. It’s a very, very tricky question.” He wants to get to pay equity by being gender neutral. Look how well that’s worked.
- Trump was asked about affordable childcare in November and said, “It’s not expensive for a company to do it… You need one person or two people, and you need some blocks and you need some swings and some toys. You know, surely, it’s not expensive. It’s not an expensive thing. I do it all over, and I get great people because of it… It’s something that can be done, I think, very easily by a company.” In other words, companies—not the government—can and should ensure their employees have affordable childcare.
- In a conversation about minimum wage this fall, Trump claimed that “wages are too high” and that increasing the minimum wage would make American businesses less competitive. A few months ago he pivoted and suggested “people need to get more,” but gave no indication he would support an actual policy to make that happen. Increasing the minimum wage would be anathema to the GOP platform.
This is to say nothing of his plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the “disastrous” health plan that’s delivered health insurance to more than 16 million individuals and has vastly improved women’s health coverage. It says nothing of his stances on reproductive health and rights, though he has suggested that women seeking abortion should be punished and has promised to nominate Supreme Court justices who would uphold abortion restrictions. Let’s not forget that health care is fundamentally an economic issue for women and their families, one as important as wages and paid leave.
My hunch is that Ivanka was suggesting that her father might nudge private companies to provide more family-friendly work policies, not that he would advocate for government policies that would ensure all workers have access to the supports they need to balance the too-often impossible juggling act of work and family. But, as I’ve described before, this GOP-style approach to paid leave—of leaving it up to the private sector to do the right thing—does not work, especially for low-income women and women of color who need these benefits the most. It especially does not work if the party the president represents relentlessly pushes policies that shamelessly treat women—and immigrants, and people of color, and the LGBT community—as second-class citizens.