Questions for the Candidates

It’s time for presidential candidates to take women’s issues seriously and answer our questions.

On the Economy

According to a recent Pew Survey, 84% of registered voters rated the economy as the top issue of the 2016 election. The following questions address women’s participation in, and contribution to, the US economy.

Which policies can eliminate the barriers to equal participation – and earnings – in the economy for working women and ensure economic survival for women struggling in poverty?

U.S. Census data consistently shows that women are more likely to live in poverty than men. Poverty rates are even more disproportionate for single mothers, for women in retirement, for millennial women aged 18-24, for women of color and for women with disabilities. Family households led by single women had the lowest median income in 2015, even as two-thirds of American women are either the primary or co-breadwinners of their families.


Which strategic policies will help women-owned businesses grow and create more jobs?

Access to capital—whether through traditional loans, angel investments, or VC fundraising—is crucial to the growth of businesses, especially small businesses. For women, that access is often limited. More than eleven million women own businesses that contribute $1.6 trillion to the US economy and have created 9 million jobs, but only 1 out of 3 applications for loans are approved for women-owned firms and just $1 out of every $23 in conventional small business loans goes to women-owned businesses. Less than 7% of venture capital is invested in women founders. 


What is a women’s issue?

[wim-inz ish-oo ] | noun | singular

1. a social or economic problem or reality that disproportionately or mostly affects women, but whose solution or support can benefit everyone.

Example: paid family leave, sexual exploitation & violence, single parenthood

2. aspect of central economic, safety, health or political issue that uniquely or negatively affect women’s every day lives and that of their families.

Example: minimum wage rates, fair wages, workplace discrimination, access to health care


human issue, core economic concern, pervasive social reality, worthy of national discussion, having impact on majority of voters and more than half the population


niche, special interest, only about our reproductive anatomy, rightfully ignored by presidential nominees

As Commander-in-Chief

#womensissues are problems mostly for women, but their solutions can benefit society as a whole.
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What social, economic, and educational reforms will you advance to increase women’s participation in STEM fields, particularly information security, to shore up our nation’s cybersecurity deficits?

Cybersecurity is one of the most important economic and national security challenges the US faces. However, the cybersecurity industry faces a skills shortage—more than 200,000 jobs are unfilled, and the demand for professionals is expected to grow by 53% through 2018. Women represent only 10% of this workforce, which reflects the general underrepresentation of women in STEM fields. Reasons for the gender gap in STEM are often attributed to gender stereotyping about aptitude and interest, the culture of overwork with little-to-no family-friendly flexibility, a lack of professional networking opportunities, sexual harassment, and wage disparities. Research shows that cutting female attrition in science, engineering, and technology by just 25% would add 220,000 highly qualified workers to the labor market without increasing H-1B immigration visas. 


What will your administration do to meet the needs of growing female military and veteran populations?

With women now entering military combat roles and representing 15% of active military duties, it is crucial that federal systems expand to address the acute and disproportionate issues that affect 2 million women veterans. Although homelessness among veterans is decreasing overall, the number of homeless women veterans is on the rise, with veterans 3 or 4 more times likely to become homeless than civilian women. Their readjustment issues are exacerbated by the following challenges: Military Sexual Trauma; single motherhood and primary childcare responsibilities, especially during rehabilitation; a greater chance of unemployment and wage disparity; the lack of gender-specific medical resources during active duty and in the VHA; and little recognition from a society familiar with only male veterans. In short, many women veterans are made to feel invisible. 


What policies would your administration pursue domestically and internationally to curtail human trafficking?

As a subset of transnational crime linked to terrorism, drug trade, and public health challenges, human trafficking is a recognized threat, directly and indirectly, to national security. Human trafficking is the forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation of men, women, and children. Of the estimated 21 million enslaved, 55% are women and girls who are forced into various forms of sexual activity, including prostitution and pornography. Traffickers often take advantage of poor, unemployed individuals who lack access to social safety nets. Some would argue that we are all complicit in human trafficking as we rely on cheap goods produced by vulnerable laborers and ignore the commercial sexual exploitation that occurs in our own communities.

  • Viewed by many as modern day slavery, its annual profit estimate is $150 billion (but it is difficult to quantify this)
  • The US Dept. of Labor identifies 136 goods from 74 countries made by forced and child labor
  • Large events, particularly in relatively confined urban areas, often become desirable locations for commercial sexual exploitation
  • In 2015, an estimated 1 out of 5 endangered runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely child sex trafficking victims
  • 600,000-800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, with 14,500-17,500 of those international victims entering the US

The best public policy is made when you are listening to people who are going to be impacted.

-Elizabeth Dole

On Health, Safety, and Family Policies

I’ve traveled the world as a writer and an activist my entire life, and I can tell you that by confronting the problems once marginalized as women’s issues, we can tackle the greatest dangers of the 21st century. Behind every major crisis, there’s an unseen factor at play, there’s a story you’ve never been told. The greatest indicator of the world’s stability, wealth, and safety is the status of women.

-Gloria Steinem

As president, what measures would you take to reduce incidents of gender-based violence?

Women and girls disproportionately experience sexual violence, exploitation, and abuse in the following forms: domestic and intimate partner violence; sexual assault on campuses, in the military, and in prisons; sexual harassment in the workplace, online, and in public spaces; and commercial sexual exploitation through human trafficking. Such violence has costly psychological, health, social, and economic consequences, both for victims and for society at large, including trauma, disabilities, job loss, interruption of education, homelessness, substance abuse, and incarceration.

  • NCADV Stats on domestic violence, which includes all abusive behaviors: intimidation, physical assault, sexual assault, battery, stalking, threats
    • Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten
    • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been physically abused by an intimate partner.
    • Domestic violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime
    • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%
    • The cost of domestic violence exceeds $8.3 billion annually
    • Between 21-60% of victims of domestic violence lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse
  • The costs of abuse are physical, psychological, and emotional; they’re also financially costly for both victims and society

What strategies or policies could stem the tide of women flooding our criminal justice system?

Women are the fastest growing segment of our incarcerated population in the last three decades. Core drivers are a disproportionate lack of access to opportunities and resources coupled with higher experience of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, mental illness, and addiction. More than 80% of women in jails have minor children at home, and they face more barriers to reentry, which can perpetuate a cycle of poverty and incarceration for their children, for whom more women bear primary child-rearing responsibility.  This cycle of poverty and incarceration gets worse for women of color.

  • Only 5% of the world’s female population lives in the U.S., but the U.S. accounts for nearly 30% of the world’s incarcerated women
  • The number of women in jail grew 14-fold between 1970 and 2014
  • 6 in 10 women in federal prison are there for nonviolent drug crimes
  • 4 out 5 incarcerated women have children, and over half have kids under 18
  • Women enter criminial justice system with a history of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, and discrimination after their release.
  • Girls are disproportionately arrested for running away, accounting for 59% of runaways, though they are often fleeing violent home situations; and they’re more likely to sexually victimized while serving time in a facility
  • Women’s engagement in criminal behavior is often related to their connections with others, whether it’s a dysfunctional/abusive relationship that makes them more vulnerable to future victimization or can lead them into involvement in crime.
  • Understanding incarceration rates on the local, state, and federal levels are complex. While state and federal prisons are showing slight declines (1%), jail populations are on the rise, and taxpayers are still footing the bill.

How might we mobilize religious and non-religious resources to collaborate in order to reduce unintended pregnancies, especially among low-income women?

Politicized debate about the access to contraception and abortion, particularly when those services overlap with taxpayer dollars, have caused reproductive health and sex education to be isolated from primary medical care. A core segment of reproductive health for individuals and couples is family planning, which seeks to reduce the health and economic consequences of unintended pregnancies and poor pre-natal care.

Among industrialized nations, the US has the highest rates of preterm births, first-day infant death, infant death before the age of one, teen pregnancy and the highest risk of women dying in childbirth. Medical studies show that effective birth spacing and access to affordable women’s health care improves the health outcomes of those pregnancies. Among both pro-life and pro-choice advocates, some argue that a true culture of life supports families and makes it easier to raise healthy children.

  • Center for Economic and Social Rights on mortality and pregnancy rates:
    • More infants die before reaching age one in the US than in any other comparable country
    • Women in the US have the highest risk of dying in childbirth of any high-income OECD country
    • Pregnancy rates among U.S. teenagers are far higher than in comparable countries
  • September 2016 Obstetrics & Gynecology report:
    • Texas now has the highest rate of women dying from pregnancy complications in the entire developed world
    • Maternal mortality rate in the US increased 27% between 2000 and 2014, even while the rest of the world succeeded in reducing its rate
  • U.S has the highest first-day infant death rate in the industrialized world
  • According to U.S. and international studies, there is a causal link between proper birth spacing and three major measures of birth outcomes: low birth weight, preterm birth and small size for gestational age. Planned pregnancies and early recognition of pregnancy also results in better and earlier pre-natal care.

What role should federal and state law enforcement play in discouraging and deterring people from threatening other users online? What, if any, legal obligations should be placed on Internet and social media companies to better manage abuse among their users?

The exponential growth of Internet use has had a dramatic impact on our daily lives, mostly in positive and profitable ways. However, for women and girls online, the Internet can be an abusive and threatening arena, and not just from pervasive sexualization in media and advertising. Women are disproportionately victims of nonconsensual pornography (commonly referred to as “revenge porn”), graphic and verbal gender harassment such as rape and violence threats, unwanted sexual attention, cyber stalking, sexual coercion, and the luring of victims into offline commercial sexual exploitation.

  • 2014 Pew Survey on Online Harassment:
    • Stalking and sexual harassment and sustained sexual harassment are more prevalent among young women than among young men, particularly women aged 18-24
    • Women aged 18-24 are more likely to experience sexual harassment online, stalked online, receive physical threats, to be harassed for a sustained period of time than women aged 25-29
  • Long-term effects of online harassment include trauma, damaged reputations, suicide
  • There are real-world consequences of online harassment for its victims:
    • affect economic opportunities, mental health, and personal safety through “doxing,” missed work days, and the cost of medical care
    • 80% of careers require job applicants to have an online presence, so retreating from online spaces is not an option
  • July 2016: U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, introduced the Intimate Privacy Protection Act, which would impose criminal sanctions on those who engage in non consensual pornography (also referred to as “revenge porn”).

Published: September 22, 2016

Women: think about the power of your vote.
Make it matter. Demand something for it.
We are worth it.

-Maria Shriver


You can submit your own question to the candidates by text and video or review the submissions of other users here.

Think women’s issues are important enough for a debate? Click here to add your name.


Watch the Presidential Debates on September 26, October 9, October 19.

Learn more about some of the most important economic, health, and safety issues that disproportionately affect women here.



Election Day is November 8, 2016








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