Some post-election analysis has judged President-elect Trump’s pledge to revive hard-hit sectors of the economy as a superior strategy to so-called identity politics as a way to connect with voters. While we should pay attention to class inequality, we shouldn’t overlook the reality that centering economic issues is fundamentally about gender identity. The loss of manufacturing jobs is as much about changing gender norms as it is about class inequality, or blue-collar men would be filling the nursing shortage.
Strategies to help hurting communities must focus on advancing women’s economic standing. New research shows that increasing educational attainment hasn’t translated into increased employment for single mothers. Women have a harder time repaying student loan debt, in part because of the gender wage gap. Domestic violence costs the economy $5.8 billion each year.
Centering women is both imperative and possible. Despite the superficial interpretation that Trump’s election is a rebuke to feminist ideals, voters support specific policies that help women. In the November election, Washington and Arizona passed ballot measures that raise the minimum wage and require employers to offer workers paid sick and safe leave. Livable wages and paid leave strengthens women’s labor force participation and paid safe leave means women don’t have to choose between their safety and a paycheck for their families.
It is hardly surprising that Trump’s rhetoric to double the rate the economy grows is improbable. Promising manufacturing jobs seductively trumpets narratives of masculinity, falsely promising a return to breadwinner wages. Trump’s proposed paid leave policy granting mothers six weeks of paid leave would be the least generous policy of any OECD country and efforts to reduce campus sexual assault are likely to end under the Trump administration. Concerns the administration will target funding for the Violence Against Women Act are becoming a reality. Dismantling State Department programs that promote gender equality will undermine both women and economic growth globally.