In introducing her father on the final evening of the RNC Convention, Ivanka Trump spoke directly to demographics that her father needs to win over: millennials and women. In particularly, she spoke compellingly about her father’s commitment to equal pay as a business leader and his history of employing women in leadership positions, as well as his desire, if elected president, to help working women—particularly working mothers—with challenges like paying for child care.
Part of me wishes that Ivanka had been clearer in talking about the wage gap. She correctly pointed out that its different factors, like motherhood, not gender alone, that are associated with lower pay for women. It would have been helpful if she had explained that mothers’ lower pay isn’t just an outcome of discrimination, but rather the result of the different choices that women with children tend to make about work, by logging fewer hours on the job, commuting less, and seeking out positions with more stable schedules. Of course, some working moms may feel they have no choice but to make those decisions and end up with lower pay, but others want jobs that provide such a work-family balance and willingly sacrifice higher pay for these other attractive job attributes.
Yet most importantly Ivanka succeeded in showing the audience that Republicans care about these issues, rather than just allowing the Left and Hillary Clinton to dominate discussions about women in the workplace. And in fact, as the Independent Women’s Forum detailed in this Working for Women report, Republicans have a very positive vision to offer women: There are dozens of conservative policy reforms that can help women, including providing more protection for equal pay, without encouraging frivolous litigation or needlessly growing government.
Similarly on childcare, Ivanka correctly noted that childcare expenses are a major burden for too many working women and more needs to be done to help parents, particularly those with lower incomes, for whom childcare expenses can eat up the bulk of after-tax earnings.
As the Trump campaign moves to offer more specifics, however, they need to distinguish themselves from Hillary Clinton who seeks to solve this problem by pouring federal subsidies into daycare centers. A far better approach would be to focus on helping working parents themselves, such as by expanding the child tax credit, so they can afford whatever childcare option they choose, including keeping a parent at home or relying on another family member, such as a grandparent, to help out during working hours. After all, many families, including those with modest incomes, sacrifice to keep one parent at home when children are young because they think that family care is best – and they deserve more support too.
Trump should also read this Mercatus Center report that shows how regulations on daycare centers increase costs for families without improving the quality of care. Rolling back such counterproductive regulations can make daycare more affordable, while increasing the number of daycare providers, so that parents have more affordable and better options. This is a message that Republicans should champion.
Republicans need to engage in these issues, demonstrate to women that they understand their concerns and have a plan to help. Ivanka’s speech was a good start, and creates an opportunity for Republicans to go the next step by laying out a positive, conservative policy agenda for improving women’s lives.