The Democratic Party plans to prominently feature women at its convention in Charlotte this week, an effort that could be haunted by the Obama administration’s troubled relationship and failed record with respect to the fairer sex.
The sluggish economy under President Obama has been particularly hard on women. Nearly six million are currently unemployed, more than 400,000 have lost their jobs, and poverty rates among women have soared to record highs.
Since Obama took office, the unemployment rate among women has jumped from 7 percent to 8.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Young women have fared even worse. Their unemployment rate has risen from 12.5 percent to 14.4 percent since 2009.
The jobless rate among single women, a demographic the Obama administration is targeting, has nearly doubled compared with prerecession levels.
A recent Pew report found that women are the only demographic group for which employment growth fell short of population growth between 2009-2011, and have consistently lagged behind men.
“By this yardstick, the economic recovery has proceeded in opposite directions for men and women,” Rakesh Kochhar, the report’s author, told the Hill.
“Where have all the women’s jobs gone?” CNN asked in April 2012, noting that the “mancession”—during which men lost twice as many jobs as women—has since turned into the “hecovery,” during which men have gained back four times as many jobs.
Even strong Obama backers concede that women are struggling. “Though we are seeing some recovery, we have not seen it in a recovery of jobs for women,” Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the left-wing Center For American Progress, told CNN.
The extent to which the sluggish economy could cost Obama support among female voters remains to be seen. Recent polling indicates that women continue to view jobs and the economy as the paramount issues, as opposed to social issues like abortion and mandatory birth control coverage in health insurance plans.
Democrats are likely to stress the latter during the convention, which will feature an appearance by noted birth control expert Sandra Fluke, while largely ignoring issues like the economy.
They are also likely to highlight the so-called “gender pay gap”—the alleged 23 percent disparity between in earnings between men and women.
Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), calls this “a myth.” As mainstream media networks have acknowledged, when factors such as area of employment, hours of work, and time in the workplace are taken into account, this “gap” virtually disappears.
But this week’s convention speakers are unlikely to mention this, or the fact that Democratic officials—including the White House, the Obama campaign, the Senate Democratic caucus and the Democratic National Committee—consistently pay their female employees less than male employees. In some cases the wage gap between men and women far exceeds 23 percent figure Democrats regularly cite.
Senate Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D., Calif.) on Tuesday refused to answer a Washington Free Beacon reporter’s question about the disparity. Pelosi paid her female staff members almost 30 percent less than male staffers in 2011, a Free Beacon analysis found.
Democrats have cited Republican opposition to legislation such as the “Paycheck Fairness Act,” which would make it easier for trial attorneys—an industry that gives overwhelmingly to Democrats—to file class action lawsuits and reap lucrative fees, as evidence that the GOP is waging a “war on women.”
Such accusations are “insulting” to women, Schaeffer said.
“The idea that there is a war on women is, in my view, simply a way of demonizing anyone who questions big government policies,” she told the Free Beacon. “It’s an inherently sexist idea, and belittling of women by positioning them as victims in need of special treatment.”
That tendency to characterize women as helpless drones, Schaeffer said, is epitomized by the Obama campaign’s “Julia” project, a website that documents the fictional life of a woman from birth to death, noting the myriad ways in which President Obama has personally helped her along the way.
Obama’s personal attitudes towards women in his administration have been well documented, and the evidence does not reflect positively on the president.
Ron Suskind, author of Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President, quoted former White House communications director Anita Dunn as saying the Obama White House “actually fit all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace to women.”
Obama’s first communications director, Ellen Moran, resigned after just 92 days. “The president has a real woman problem,” another senior female official reportedly said, describing an atmosphere in which women often felt ignored by the president.
Former Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers complained to the New York Times that the Obama administration did not “seem to have enough [women] inside of their own inner circle.”
In a 2011 article titled “The White House Boys’ Club: President Obama Has a Woman Problem,” Time magazine’s Amy Sullivan detailed the president’s preference for the company of men.
“There’s a looseness to Obama when he’s hanging out with the boys club that doesn’t appear in co-ed gatherings,” she wrote. “The president blows off steam on the golf course with male colleagues and friends. He takes to the White House basketball court with NBA stars, men’s college players, and male cabinet members and members of Congress.
That preference is reflected in the make up of the White House senior staff, which consisted of 74 men and just 48 women as of 2011.
Even before Obama took office, he was criticized in 2008 for paying the women on his campaign staff less than the men and far less than GOP opponent John McCain paid his female staffers.
The Democratic convention also comes in the wake of several disturbing reports of Democratic lawmakers acting inappropriately towards women and will of course feature a prominent speech from Bill Clinton, the former president who was famously impeached for lying about his affair with a 22-year-old intern.