Romney on women's rights: You can't fix a broken wheel by riding on it

October 19, 2012

Tuesday's presidential debate was clearly the most spirited debate in recent history ("Obama takes an aggressive stand," Oct, 17). There were times when the tension between the two candidates was palpable.

I believe the debate reflects the very different visions that each candidate has for this country. But among the many issues discussed, the one that resonated most with me was the candidates' stands on equal pay for equal work for women.

As the father of a young daughter, I constantly worry about my daughter's ability to succeed in a world that may not value her as her family does because of her race and gender.

Please don't get me wrong; I am confident my daughter will succeed in anything she does because she comes from a heritage of strong black women, and she has the love and guidance of two committed parents as well as a maternal role model who exudes excellence.

However, when the question of equal pay for equal work for women was asked of the candidates, former governor Mitt Romney responded with a quip about women having been hurt by the economic policies of the Obama administration. He noted that more women are unemployed and struggling to find jobs, and said his administration would grow the economy, creating more jobs for everyone.

President Obama talked about the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Act, his commitment to ensuring women's right to choose and his undying commitment to creating parity in pay for women because of the impact it will have on his own daughters' future. I connected with his response because it spoke to my own commitment to ensuring similar opportunities for my own daughter.

While I am a strong believer in capitalism and the power of markets, it appears that relying on market forces is the only solution Mr. Romney is proposing. In his view, if we simply grow the economy, the market will create opportunities for everyone, including qualified women, and employers will be forced to reduce the current gender pay disparity.

This, however, was not what happened from the 1940s through the 1960s, when the economy dramatically improved after World War II but the plight of African-Americans did not. It required the tireless efforts of the Civil Rights Movement and judicial action to force the changes in America that allowed my generation to reap the fruits of equal rights.

The only advice that I can give Mr. Romney is that you can't fix a broken wheel by riding on it. Anecdotes about hiring women in his administration and relying on market forces won't by themselves reduce gender based pay disparity for my daughter. I hope he rethinks his position on this issue, if not for this election at least for his granddaughters and great-granddaughters.

Miguel McInnis

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