Votes for Women

Zandria Haines | Dec 9, 2021


One day, when I was donning a “Votes for Women” shirt, a young man asked me, “What does that mean?” I paused. I honestly had never put much thought into it. When I bought the shirt, the answer seemed obvious. “Votes for Women” means voting for women candidates, right?

Yes, we absolutely need women candidates on the ballot and we’d love to see more women running (and winning!) for office. However, women running and winning only scratches the surface of what women really need. Women need elected leaders who put comprehensive policies into action that support us in the workplace, home, and all spaces, both public and private.

The Build Better Back Act (BBBA) has the potential to be a comprehensive policy, but one issue, paid family leave, may not make it into the final legislation. The House passed the first national paid family and medical leave program, however, it is expected to get some pushback in the Senate. BBBA aims to promote economic security, but advocates say that without paid family leave as a component, women will continue to be negatively impacted by outdated workplace policies and the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result of the pandemic, a record number of women have left the workplace. Studies show that one in four women have considered leaving the workplace versus one in five men. As schools and daycares closed during the pandemic, many women were left to juggle their careers, childcare, and virtual school schedules with little to no support. Without viable childcare options or flexible working hours, this intersection came at a cost: many women had no option other than to leave the workforce.

Workplace policies expand far beyond the pandemic. Women, especially after giving birth, absolutely need time off to care for themselves and their newborn. This is currently impossible for many women. One in four women return to work two weeks after giving birth to a child before they are mentally or physically ready.

It is not just paid family leave, women also need to be assured of paid time off and access to quality healthcare. Women should not have to delay health checkups, work while they are sick, or ignore persistent aches and pains out of fear of losing their jobs.  And when they need care, it should not be financially devastating. And as women are making 84% of earnings of men, a percentage that’s even lower for Black, Latina, and Native women, continuing to earn money, whether or not we get sick, is paramount for women.

Voting for women is much more than just voting for women candidates. It means voting for women’s issues, voting for women’s rights, and holding elected leaders accountable to maintain and implement policies that will protect us. We must continue the conversation long after Election Day.

So next time I wear the shirt, I’ll be ready. I’ll be ready with a list of ways to support women. And I’ll start with the list above.

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