Leaders of Women’s Organizations Send Letter to President Calling for Meeting on Budget, Ask That Women be Included in Deficit Talks

For Immediate Release

Women's Advocacy Groups
Contact: 

Caroline Dobuzinskis, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, dobuzinskis@iwpr.org, 202-785-5100
Joshua Rosenblum, Social Security Works, (202) 587-1635, jrosenblum@socialsecurity-works.org

Leaders of Women’s Organizations Send Letter to President Calling for Meeting on Budget, Ask That Women be Included in Deficit Talks

Task force says discussions on reducing deficit need to address women’s concerns.

WASHINGTON - The Older Women’s Economic Security (OWES) Task Force, part of the National Coalition of Women’s Organizations (NCWO), in a letter today to President Barack Obama called for the concerns of women to be considered in budget talks to reduce the deficit. The task force asked that members of the administration with expertise on women’s issues be added to the White House’s advisory team discussing strategies to reduce deficit spending.

“It is simply not enough to send a few privileged men to the table to ‘solve’ the nation’s budget problem,” states the letter from the OWES Task Force. “We welcome the opportunity to bring our voices and expertise to a discussion with you and your advisors, and we request that members of your administration with expertise on women’s issues, such as Secretary Hilda Solis and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, be added to the White House’s advisory team working on these negotiations.”

Signers to the letter include leaders from the National Organization for Women (NOW), the Black Women’s Health Imperative, the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation, Dialogue on Diversity, the Older Women’s League, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Women’s Committee of 100, the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, the Women’s Research and Education Institute, and the YWCA USA.

“Under the guise of reducing the deficit, conservatives in Congress have set their sights on cutting programs that disproportionately employ and serve women,” said NOW President Terry O'Neill. “Who will stand up for the millions of women who rely on these programs? Leaving it to the men is not the answer. Women must play a critical role in these negotiations.”

Today, congressional leaders are gathering to meet with Vice President Joe Biden and his economic advisors at the historic Blair House to address the deficit. The talks come at a time when cuts to programs that are vital to women and their families—including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security—are being considered within far-reaching budget plans.

The old boys club meeting has consisted of Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), U.S. Senators John Kyl (R-AZ), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Max Baucus (D-MT), Reps. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), who have convened for the budget negotiations with Vice President Biden, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Budget Director Jack Lew, and economic adviser Gene Sperling.

Social Security is a lifeline to many older women, keeping them out of poverty. According to a report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), in 2009, Social Security helped more than 14 million Americans aged 65 and older stay above the poverty line. Without access to Social Security, 58 percent of women and 48 percent of men above the age of 75 would be living below the poverty line.

Women are now faced with an added economic challenge because they are not getting their fair share of jobs in the recovery. Even though the recession was dubbed a ‘mancession’ jobs are now being gained at a faster rate for men than for women. While men have recovered 24 percent of the jobs they lost during the recession, women have recovered only 14 percent of the jobs they lost. Single mothers and women of color are particularly at risk; their unemployment rates remain in the double digits.

The gender wage gap is an ongoing economic hurdle for women, who have lower median earnings than men in 107 out of 111 occupations, regardless of levels of education, according to research from IWPR.

Below is the full text of the letter to the President from the The Older Women’s Economic Security (OWES) Task Force:

 

Dear Mr.  President:

We, the undersigned members of the Older Women’s Economic Security Task Force of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, write to request a meeting with you and the Vice President to discuss the impact of the budget on women and American families and how women can help address the economic problems that affect us all.  Women rely disproportionately on Social Security and Medicare, and they must have a voice in any negotiation on these essential--and successful--programs. Yet the media reports regarding the administration’s experts who are assisting Vice President Biden suggest that there are no women in the room. In 2011, it is disturbing to have to ask why women would not participate in virtually every important discussion in the White House.

We would like to bring you the real stories from women who make up the struggling families and hard-working people all across our country who are in the throes of a rocky recovery in which women are being left behind. While men have recovered 24 percent of the jobs they lost during the recession, women have recovered only 14 percent of the jobs they lost. Single mothers and women of color are particularly at risk; their unemployment rates remain in the double digits.  The federal government's failure to create a robust jobs program means that many more women will lose their jobs as state and local governments reduce their workforces. Women are being asked to shoulder a burden that is not of their making, to pay a “fair share” of the sacrifice that is needed when they are not getting a fair share of the jobs in the recovery or equal pay for an equal day’s work.

The National Council of Women’s Organizations is composed of more than 200 women’s organizations representing more than 12 million American women. The Older Women’s Economic Security (OWES) Task Force was formed in 1998 to study, monitor, and act to enhance older women’s economic security. This task force represents economists and activists, service providers and community organizers, legal, political, and social networks who have vital expertise and national recognition as problem solvers and protectors of the rights and responsibilities of our nation’s women and children.

The Task Force is deeply concerned about the impact of the current proposals for budget cuts and debt reduction on older women’s lives. Older women would be disproportionately affected by cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  Their families also face loss of income and increased costs when such vital programs and services as family planning, work training, child care, schools, and education are cut or terminated.

Women must be a party to these discussions. It is simply not enough to send a few privileged men to the table to “solve” the nation’s budget problem. We welcome the opportunity to bring our voices and expertise to a discussion with you and your advisors, and we request that members of your administration with expertise on women’s issues, such as Secretary Hilda Solis and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, be added to the White House’s advisory team working on these negotiations.
 

Respectfully yours,

Terry O'Neill
Co-Chair, OWES Task Force
President, National Organization for Women

Dr. Heidi Hartmann
Co-Chair, OWES Task Force
President, Institute for Women’s Policy Research

Eleanor Hinton Hoytt
President and CEO, Black Women’s Health Imperative

Deborah L. Frett
Chief Executive Officer, Business and Professional Women’s Foundation

Cristina Caballero
President, Dialogue on Diversity

Bobbie A. Brinegar
Executive Director, Older Women’s League

Margot Dorfman,
Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce

Cindy Hounsell
President, Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement

Susan P. Scanlan
President, Women’s Research and Education Institute

Gloria Lau
Chief Executive Officer, YWCA USA

Lulu Flores
President, National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC)

Linda Lisi Juergens
Executive Director, National Association of Mothers' Centers (NAMC)

Julia Wartenberg Director,
Global Women’s Project at the Center of Concern

Cynthia Harrison
Vice-Chair, Women’s Committee of 100

Ariel Dougherty
Director, Media Equity Collaborative

 

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