Hillary Clinton continued her month-long focus on jobs and the economy during remarks at the Women’s Economic Opportunity Summit at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester. Hillary laid out the economic challenges facing women in New Hampshire and across the country—from wage gaps to paid leave to child care. Hillary talked about her commitment to supporting women in the work force, increasing their wages, and expanding women-owned small businesses—as keys for economic growth.
Hillary was joined at the event by representatives of the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, who announced their endorsement of Hillary. It’s their first-ever presidential endorsement.
Thank you. Thank you all. I am very excited to be here at Southern New Hampshire University. I well remember this is the location of where I had my final rally before the New Hampshire primary in 2008—so I kind of consider this a lucky place, and it’s especially fortunate to be here with so many whom I have worked with, and whose accomplishments I admire, starting with Terrie Norelli, the former speaker of the New Hampshire house of Representatives. A real leader, and you’ve got just a taste of that. She was much too kind to me, but you could see the energy and the passion in what she had to say, because she’s been fighting for these issues her entire life. And I am so delighted she’s with me.
And MaryAnn Manoogian, thank you for being the leader of the center for Women’s Business Advancement here at the University. I’ll have a little bit to say about that later, but this center is making such a difference. You got just a small appetizer from MaryAnn about the good work it’s doing. Small business is the backbone of our country’s economy, and we need to do more to encourage the startup and the growth of small businesses, and that’s particularly true for women-owned small businesses, because they still don’t have, as MaryAnn said, the support they need to really take off. So thank you for what you’re doing here.
I also want to thank Senator Donna Soucy, who was on the program before me. Provost Patty Lynott, thank you very much. Also, former Congresswoman Carol Shake-Porter is here, and I hope she is the future congresswoman again in the first district, and a number of other elected officials and distinguished guests—but mostly for the students who are here.
I really appreciate your being with us, because we are going to talk about women’s economic empowerment and the role that women can and should play in our economy. But before we start talking about that, I want to say something about what happened yesterday in San Bernardino, California. We don’t know yet everything about this specific attack.
President Obama spoke this morning about the possibility that it was terror related. I know that everyone from the FBI to local police are doing everything they can to find the answers, tracking every lead, looking at every angle, and I’m confident that they will determine what happened, and take whatever steps are necessary to prevent future attacks.
We do have the best law enforcement in the world, the best military, the best intelligence services. We’ve seen that again and again. I was, as many of you may know, a senator from New York on 9/11, and I spent a great deal of my time in the years since working with law enforcement, working with the military, working with intelligence services to do everything we could to prevent future attacks.
We’ve seen their expertise and professionalism again and again. We’re sure to see more of that in the days ahead. But I also want to note this: It’s important to remember—and I know this from the work I did as a senator, particularly with law enforcement—the vast majority of Muslim Americans are just as concerned and heart-broken about this as anyone else. And no matter what motivation these killers—these murderers—had, we can say one thing for certain: They should not have been able to do this. We cannot go on with losing 90 people a day to gun violence.
I don’t believe we can stop every incident of gun violence, but we sure can stop a lot of them. And we need to take action now. No parent should have to worry about going to a holiday party after work, or about sending their kids to school, or going to a movie theater, or even going to church. No one should have that basic sense of safety and security ripped away from them.
The vast majority of Americans support common-sense steps to reduce and prevent gun violence, yet Congress has failed to pass even the most obvious measures—despite the fact 92 percent of Americans support these measures, 83 percent of gun owners support them. So just what will it take for Congress to overcome the intimidation of the gun lobby and do something as sensible as making sure people on the terrorist watch list can’t buy weapons? If you are too dangerous to fly in America, you are too dangerous to buy a gun in America. How can anyone, anyone of good conscience, disagree with that?
During this campaign, I will continue to speak out. I know there are some who don’t believe we should be talking about this issue, or wish to somehow push it into the background. Well, I will not be silenced. I will continue to talk about what we as a nation must do to protect ourselves—and I will, as President, do everything I can, every single day, to keep our country, our communities, and our families safe and strong.
Now keeping our country safe goes hand-in-hand with keeping our country prosperous. And that’s what brings me here today to talk about America’s economic future. And key to that economic future is making sure all Americans have a chance to climb those ladders of opportunity, to fulfill the basic bargain of America: That if you do your part and you work hard, you should be able to get ahead and stay ahead. But what is often overlooked is how important it is to our overall economic prosperity that women have every opportunity to contribute to the fullest of their ability, their talent, and their hard work.
It’s also vital to America’s families, especially at a time when record numbers of women are their household’s primary breadwinners. Now, this should seem obvious. After all, more than 50 percent of Americans are women, and if we want to build the most productive and highly skilled workforce that we possibly can, we need to value women.
That means making it easier for women to find good jobs and rise in the workplace. It means making it easier for women to start businesses and gain new skills. And it means treating women like the valuable workers and citizens we are. And you shouldn’t have to be an economist to see that. This is common sense. And yet in many ways our economy is still organized to achieve the exact opposite outcome.
We don’t make it easy for women to contribute. We make it hard. And we make it especially hard for women to both work and raise a family. Consider this: Right now, in many states, quality childcare is more expensive than in-state college tuition. Here in New Hampshire it costs over $11,000 a year to pay for childcare for your baby. So that puts working parents, especially working mothers, in a really tough spot—either they pay for childcare, even though it can eat up a huge portion of their paycheck, and for low income families here in New Hampshire it’s almost a full quarter of their income, or they go with a lower-quality option, and then spend the whole workday worrying about whether their kids are okay.
Now some take a third path: They give up trying to hold a full-time job all together. They either go part-time or stay home, which is, of course, an absolutely legitimate, valid choice, even though many of them may want to continue to work and their families could use that income. They want badly for the numbers to add up, but they just don’t. Or, think about this: Right now the United States is the only major economy in the world without any form of paid leave.
So for many workers, if your child gets sick, or if your aging parent needs someone to take them to the doctor, or if you have a new baby and you want to spend time bonding and taking care of that little one, you risk losing a paycheck, or even losing your job all together.
Then there’s the wage gap. You know, here in New Hampshire, women are graduating from college at a higher rate than women in the rest of the country. And New Hampshire women are joining the workforce at a higher rate than the rest of the country. But—you knew there’d be a but—the wage gap for New Hampshire women is actually slightly larger than it is for women nationwide. In this state, women make an average of just 77 cents for every dollar that men make. In other words, New Hampshire women are achieving more in terms of education and employment, but earning less.
And for some women this adds up to thousands of dollars a year. That’s money they and their families could really use—and nationwide, women of color make the least of all.
It is past time for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. I sponsored and fought for this when I was in the Senate, because this law would do something very important and very simple: It would make it easier for workers to discover if they’re being paid unfairly, and do something about it. It would make it harder for employers to justify paying men and women different wages for the same work. That seems like the kind of law we ought to be able to support. But, in fact, it’s very difficult with the Republicans to promote this idea of equal pay for equal work.
They don’t believe in it, they don’t support it. And honest to goodness, I don’t know who they spend their time talking to, because I talk to a lot of people who are quite worried about this. I’ll give you just one example. I met a young man in New Hampshire here some weeks ago who said to me, “I want to tell you why I’m supporting you.” I asked him please do. He said, “Because when I had my first real job, when I was 17-years-old, I went to work as a cashier in the same store where my mother had worked for four years.” He said I was really excited about it, because it was like the first adult job. “So when I brought home my paycheck,” he told me, “after two weeks, I proudly showed it to my mom, and I saw her face fall. And I asked her what was wrong. And she said, ‘They’re paying you more per hour than they pay me, and I’ve been there four years.'”
Now I’ve asked people, how could that be? And his mother never would have known, because it would have been possibly grounds for termination if she’d asked any of the other cashiers. But she obviously knew, because of her son. I’ve asked people, how could that be, and basically it’s well, you know, he’s a young man, maybe he’ll stay with the company, maybe he’ll go up in the ranks. Well, what about his mom? What about her rights? What about how hard she worked to support him and their family? Right now you could be fired, or otherwise retaliated against if you discuss or disclose your wages.
So it’s really hard for a lot of us even to know how bad the problem is. That’s why the Paycheck Fairness Act would remove, prohibit, that kind of retaliation. We live in an age of great transparency. People ought to know what other people are being paid for doing the same jobs. And we’re going to work to get that passed.
And let’s not forget the minimum wage. Two thirds of minimum wage workers are women, and many of them are also raising families. Even if they’re working full time, they’re stuck below the poverty line. I don’t think that’s right.
No one working full time in America should be forced to raise their children in poverty—but that’s exactly what’s happening for a lot of families. You know what, that’s bad for the entire economy. It’s another thing my Republican friends don’t agree with. But those of you who have studied economics know we are a 70 percent consumption economy, right?
Henry Ford understood that. Remember when he got criticized for paying the autoworkers more than anybody else was making? And a lot of other business leaders said why are you paying your workers, I think it was like $1 a day or something incredible. He said why, because I want them to buy my cars. So if we don’t raise wages we’re never going to get the economy moving on all cylinders like it should.
It’s bad for the economy. It means here in New Hampshire families have less to spend on groceries, or rent, or gas. And so a minimum wage that’s too low holds us all back no matter what our income. We need to give Americans a raise.
Now let me be clear, I’m not talking about women who choose to remain at home and not to work outside the home. We even see more fathers doing that. That’s great. And they should be able to make that choice, and we should support it, whatever the right choice is for themselves and their families. But for too many parents, not working is not an option. But working is so much harder on families than it needs to be. In this global economy we have to be as competitive as possible, and we cannot afford to leave any talent on the sidelines. That’s what we’re doing when we relegate American women to lower paying jobs, or when we throw all kinds of obstacles into their path. So they can’t stay in the workforce, they can’t compete for a promotion, or start a business.
Let me just give you a little context here, because I want you to understand why this is such a pressing problem if we want to grow our economy again. Over the past 40 years, as more and more women entered into our workforce, our economy grew by $3.5 trillion. That’s a lot of growth. And we rose to seventh in the world out of the world’s top 24 economies in women’s labor force participation. But that progress has stalled. As of 2013 we have dropped to 19. That represents a lot of unused potential. And as we’re falling in the rankings, other countries are climbing—because they’re putting family-friendly policies into place, like paid leave and affordable childcare, universal pre-kindergarten, and we aren’t.
This will put us at a disadvantage in the global economy in the future. It’s time to recognize paid leave is not a luxury. Quality childcare is not a luxury. Fair pay and fair scheduling aren’t luxuries. They are growth strategies, and necessary to our national competitiveness. And, by the way, they don’t just matter to women. You know, dads who want to bond with their newborns, they care about the quality of their kid’s daycare.
Sons are taking care of aging parents—like the young teacher I met here in Manchester, who is taking care of his 84-year-old mother with Alzheimer’s. He can’t afford full time care for her. He can’t afford to quit his job, because then he couldn’t support her. He’s a teacher, so what does he do, he takes his mother to work with him, because there’s no other alternative for him to be the kind of son he intends to be.
Most husbands I know want their wives to earn a fair wage—these policies are good for all of us. And we should do it in a way to put them in place that doesn’t impose unfair burdens on businesses, especially small businesses.
We have some friends here from the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce. And they’re also doing terrific work helping women entrepreneurs get the support they need to start and grow their businesses.
Here in New Hampshire, as an example, women-owned businesses employ nearly 39,000 people. And women are opening more than one-quarter of all new businesses. I think we can do even better. If you have a good idea, and you’re willing to work hard, you should be able to put it into action. So I want to build on the work of the Women’s Chamber of Commerce. I want to help more women get access to startup capital and professional mentoring.
I want more women-owned businesses to compete and win federal contracts. Earlier today I was proud to receive the endorsement of the Women’s Chamber. And as president I will work with them, with the center here, and other advocates, to break down barriers—so that more and more small businesses and women-owned businesses can get started and be successful. I said before I want to be the small business president, and I mean it.
I also want to mention another barrier that fell just a few hours ago, when Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made an historic announcement. For the first time ever, every single position in the military—including all combat jobs—will be open to women. We’ve seen women in our armed forces prove their heroism and abilities; now our official policy is catching up. And women who are qualified for these positions should be able to compete and win them.
Now I know there’s a big difference between what I’m advocating for and what you hear when you listen to the Republican debates. Nearly all of them do oppose paid leave, none of them want to raise the minimum wage. They don’t really have plans for supporting working families.
But here’s the bottom line: We need to throw everything we’ve got at making the economy work for everybody again. We need broad-based prosperity again. We need rising incomes again. We need to unstack the deck that has been stacked in favor of those at the top. And you don’t do that if you just say the same old things over and over again and expect a different result.
Their economic policies did not work. We got the Great Recession. We had to dig ourselves out of that ditch. We cannot go back there one more time. So here’s my bottom line: What’s good for women is good for America. I’m more convinced of that than ever before. When women are strong, families are strong—and when families are strong, America is strong.
As president, I will fight for more opportunities for women to develop their talents and pursue their dreams. But I will always put families first, just like I always have. That is a promise. And I hope you will work with me, be my partner to make sure we get that done.
Thank you all very much.