Economic Empowerment For Women
Kirsten's number one priority is to create jobs for all Americans. As part of her efforts to foster job creation and grow our economy, she is also focused on an agenda to create economic empowerment and security for women.
As more women enter the workforce than ever before, Kirsten believes that the unique challenges facing women must now be confronted as national priorities for our entire economy. The secretary making $30,000 per year, the CEO managing a Fortune 500 company, the single mother returning to school to retrain for a new job -- all of these women face many of the same challenges. Our ability to find solutions to these challenges is critical to the success of our entire economy.
As a working mother and one of only 17 women in the U.S. Senate, Kirsten is part of a new generation of leaders with a unique understanding of the challenges facing American families and the critical need for economic growth and new jobs. Kirsten feels strongly that women are the key to economic recovery, which is why she started Off The Sidelines, an effort to urge more women to make their voices heard and get involved in all levels of public life.
Even though the Equal Pay Act has been the law of the land for the last 45 years, shocking rates of paycheck discrimination still persist. For every dollar a man makes, women still make just 78 cents – with the disparity much worse for women of color. Latino women earn 53 cents on the dollar and African American women earn just 62 cents on the dollar. As a result, working women and their families stand to lose $250,000 – a quarter of a million dollars – over the course of their careers.
One of Kirsten’s first acts in the Senate was to help pass the historic Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act fights pay discrimination and helps to ensure fundamental fairness to American workers by allowing employees, who have been paid less because of discrimination, more time to file claims and achieve pay equity.
She is currently working hard to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The bill expands damages under the Equal Pay Act and allows those discriminated against by gender to receive full compensatory damages, giving it equal legal footing as discrimination based on race and ethnicity. It would make it easier for parties that have been discriminated against to work together through a class action suit, close loopholes in how discrimination is counted, would facilitate detection of pay discrimination by prohibiting punishment of employees who share salary information with coworkers and by requiring employers to submit pay data by race, sex, and national origin to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Kirsten believes it is critically important to the economic stability of our families and children that working mothers are paid fairly. Equal pay for women is key to helping working families in these tough economic times.
America is currently facing a shortage of math and science teachers. The lack of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) teachers is taking a serious toll on the amount of STEM students we produce. There is also a stark gender gap among our high-tech workforce -- women represent 43 percent of our workforce, but make up only 23 percent of scientists and engineers. Kirsten introduced the National STEM Education Tax Incentive for Teachers Act that provides STEM teachers who work in low-income, high-need schools a tax credit to cover 10 percent of their undergraduate tuition. She also introduced the Undergraduate Scholarships for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Act – the US STEM Act that would establish a new program under the National Science Foundation to award 2,500 undergraduate scholarships each year for students’ full tuition during their last two years at a state institution. The program would specifically seek out low-income, high-achieving students to pursue degrees in math, science and engineering. This effort will help ensure that all students have a path to higher education and success in careers that will define the economy of the future.
Kirsten also introduced the Roosevelt Scholars Act, which would encourage outstanding undergraduate and graduate students in mission-critical fields of study to pursue a career in the federal government. There is a shortage of workers who have the unique skill sets required by many mission-critical occupations including medicine, law, or information technology. Because of this, the federal government is often unable to recruit these highly qualified individuals because of more attractive salary and benefits packages available in the private sector. The Roosevelt Scholars Act would help address this hiring challenge by establishing a scholarship program to provide tuition assistance and a small stipend to outstanding undergraduate and graduate students in mission-critical degree programs. In return for this incentive, Roosevelt Scholars would commit to three to five years of service with a federal agency in a mission-critical position.
SUPPORTING WOMEN-OWNED BUSINESSES
Kirsten understands the critical role that small businesses play in job creation and economic growth for our nation. That is why she is working on creating an environment where small businesses can succeed and thrive. Last year, she held several roundtables in communities across New York to educate and inform women on how to start and improve their small business ventures. These roundtables provided an opportunity to hear about state and federal services, grant opportunities, tax incentives and access to capital and to ask questions with local experts.
Women small business owners will also benefit from a number of small business initiatives Kirsten is pushing for including her Small Business Lending Enhancement Act of 2009 that would spur small business growth and create jobs by increasing access to loans from credit unions. She is also working on legislation with Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine to reform the Small Business Administration to help women-owned businesses access federal contracts.
SUPPORTING TELEWORK & WORK FLEXIBILITY
Kirsten supports incentives for businesses that allow their employees to telecommute. Workers trying to juggle the demands of jobs and family are strongly in favor of having the ability to work from home. Telecommuting allows working parents to spend more time at home with their kids and less time commuting. Kirsten introduced the Family Work Flexibility Act that would offer businesses a $500 tax credit to help pay the cost of equipment, such as computers and telephone lines that would enable employees to work from home. This would help save businesses and families money.
INCREASING ACCESS TO CHILD CARE
Kirsten is working hard to make child care more affordable for working families. She is pushing for an increase in the cap made available by The Dependent and Child Care Tax Credit. Since 1981, the credit has increased by only $600. Kirsten is working with Senator Barbara Boxer of California to double the amount of the credit, providing families with a maximum deduction of $6,000. This increase would reflect inflation and rapidly rising child care costs. This bill would also make the child care credit fully refundable, allowing low-income families to receive the full benefit of this credit.
Kirsten is also working to help more New York businesses provide on-site child care services for their employees by providing larger tax breaks to employers who provide child care on-site. She is also pushing for additional tax breaks for businesses that help their workers find affordable child care.
We also need to encourage more trained professionals to enter the child care workforce. Her bill would create a new tax credit for any college graduate who specializes in child care and works at least 1,200 hours a year in a child care facility.
Part-time Students should also have access to the child care tax credit. Senator Gillibrand is supporting legislation to allow part-time students access to the same tax benefits as full time students.
SUPPORTING FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE
Kirsten believes that it is critical to have a paid family and medical leave program that helps families after the birth of a newborn baby or when there is a seriously ill child, spouse, or parent. She supports helping states implement a paid leave program. She also supports The Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act that would provide federal employees with four weeks of paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child. Her Senate office grants three months paid maternity leave, one of the most generous in the Congress.
Kirsten also pushed for the Healthy Families Act, the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s bill to require employers that employ 15 or more employees to permit them to earn at least one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 56 hours. This would allow employees to use such time to meet their own medical needs, care for the medical needs of certain family members or seek medical attention, assist a related person, take legal action, relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.