Commentary by Laura Trueman, director of strategic operations at The Heritage Foundation.
Washington is talking about and voting on pay equity for women this week. As a professional woman, I care very much about how women are faring in American society.
But, like most mothers of daughters, my real concerns center on what kind of world – professional and otherwise – awaits my daughters, now ages 22 and 20.
[sharequote align="center"]Washington thinks that women earning less than men is what keeps me awake at night. It doesn’t. [/sharequote]
The president and Congress seem to think that the prospect they may earn less than men is what keeps me awake at night. It doesn’t. In fact, pay equity doesn’t even register as a “Top Nine” concern for me. When I survey the country’s cultural and economic landscape, other problems appear far more likely and harmful to their wellbeing.
Here’s my list. Judging from conversations with friends and their daughters, they are widely shared.
Nine Worries for Our Daughters
1. Will they get a job?
The flailing economy makes securing a professional-level job after college far less likely. Unemployment rates are twice as high for young Americans. Equitable pay isn’t in the picture if our daughters can’t get jobs.
President Barack Obama, accompanied by White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, left, Deloitte CEO Joe Echevarria, right, and others, speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, June 10, 2013, during a ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act. Obama highlighted the gap in pay that still exists between men and women.. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
2. Will they achieve financial independence?
It’s a proud moment and important rite of passage when young adults get the job that allows them to support themselves. It’s also critical to the Boomer’s ability to save for retirement. But the percentage of young adults moving back home, the so-called “boomerang generation,” is the largest since Pew started tracking it in 1968.
3. Will they find satisfaction in their work?
College is supposed to be the ticket to greater work choices and job satisfaction. Yet, almost half of college graduates are underemployed, working in jobs that do not require college degrees.
4. Will they find a man who adores them, is good and true, and holds marriage in high regard?
Congress may not know it, but young men – not women — are the struggling gender. They have higher rates of unemployment, lower incomes, less education and higher involvement in warping addictions like pornography, alcohol and drugs. A “M.R.S. Degree” is not the be-all-end-all for life, but most of us hope for a man with “the right stuff” as a life partner for our daughters.
Graduates of the University of Alabama's class of 2011.
5. Will their husbands be able to support them in ways that allow them a choice of whether to work while children are young?
Progress for women in the workplace means they have more choices about whether to work or stay home when they have young children. Unfortunately, bad economic policies may rob them of any choice to stay home with young children because job and wage stagnation mean two paychecks are needed.
6. Will their faith be the ballast that provides meaning, guidance and strength needed to withstand life’s heartaches and make wise choices?
“Tolerance” is touted as the apex of virtues yet, strangely, it doesn’t apply to those with faith-based values. They are increasingly painted as ignorant, bigots, or both. Marginalizing bible-based religion is in vogue. But, my experience is that when times get tough, tolerance is a poor substitute for faith and hope in the everlasting God. If cultural norms continue and faith becomes the exception rather than the rule, our daughters and their children will miss the critical ballast of faith.
7. Will they avoid debt and be able to move up the ladder of the American dream?
Some news reports characterize those coming of age amid the recent recession as “the lost generation,” because over their entire lifetimes they will be unlikely to catch up financially. The World War II generation earned more than their parents, and Boomers have out-earned “the greatest generation.” Pew research says this will be the first generation to have “lower levels of wealth and personal income than their two immediate predecessor generations.”
A mother walks with her children to the MacArthur Park Primary Center School in Los Angeles Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 (AP Photo)
8. Will they find the internal reserves to ground their children in love, regardless of any loss, disability, or unforeseen heartache?
It’s a good thing most of us don’t have a clue how hard being a parent is beforehand. Whether losing a child to death or trying to get them through drugs, mental illness, disabilities or sexual and relational traumas, it’s tough. Friends, faith, family, and communities get us through such times. There is a vague sense that the fabric is fraying, affecting our children’s ability to carry the unanticipated burdens they may face.
9. Will America be strong - economically, spiritually, morally, family-wise, and educationally – for them?
Ultimately, our daughters’ well-being is intricately bound up in the country’s well-being. In that realm, it’s not pay equity that represents the greatest threat. It’s a constellation of issues, including national indebtedness, declining faith, devaluation of family, lack of sexual restraint and fidelity, the breakdown of marriage, children being reared without the presence of both a mother and father in the home, and education policies that are not equipping children for success.
Washington, as usual, is out of touch with what really weighs on our hearts. The president and Congress need to set aside political theater that doesn’t really touch the real concerns we have for our daughters.
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