It was down to the wire before a decision was made to include Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the race, in this week’s Republican presidential debate. Fiorina gained some traction in the second-string opener last month, giving her enough momentum to join the boys on the big stage this time.
Will a woman in the prime-time lineup help the Republican cause? It could, since one skirt would break the monotony of male faces in dark suits and red ties, and some people think she’s the only one willing to confront Donald Trump‘s misogyny head-on. But wardrobe and sparring ability aside, it depends much more on how she appeals to the majority of voters — other women.
That’s where it gets dicey for the lone female on the stage. So far her position on so-called “women’s issues” has mostly been a black box except for her opposition to abortion. She once claimed that she leads on pay equity — consistently a top concern for women. But she didn’t say how she leads on it. Were the women at Hewlett-Packard paid and promoted equally with men while she was CEO? Who knows? The company never made any such information public.
Reaching to the bottom of the wage barrel, where most of the of the lowest paid workers happen to be female, Fiorina admits women still bear a disproportionate burden of poverty. But she’s against raising the minimum wage, claiming it will hurt entry level workers. Maybe the crack ex-executive needs to bone up on her national statistics. Adult women working in fast food, home health care, child care, housekeeping, and similar jobs make up the overwhelming majority of minimum wage workers. And their mid-level sisters? Fiorina’s also against the Paycheck Fairness Act.
As for other issues like paid family leave and keeping Social Security intact that would make the lives of women better, her campaign statements are resoundingly silent.
To paraphrase Ann Richards, a great pro-woman politician from the past: You can put lipstick on a candidate and call her a contender — but she’s still an anti-woman conservative.
Martha Burk is the author of Your Voice, Your Vote: The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Power, Politics and the Change We Need! and Cult of Power: The Inside Story of the Fight to Open Augusta National Golf Club, and How It Exposed the Ingrained Corporate Sexism That Kept Women Down.