Julie Kashen, Policy Director at Make It Work, discusses women’s economic security, how to resist and what women should do now.
By Kate Glavan
Before 2016’s presidential election, a few women started the advocacy and education campaign Make It Work because they suspected there would be at least one woman in the 2016 race. Advocacy and education organizations like Make It Work are crucial for keeping citizens informed on what the government is doing. It planned to hold candidates accountable on protecting women’s economic security issues such as child-care, paid family leave, and equal pay. Plus, the company was taking a unique approach by explaining progressive legislative policy; especially how economic policies can hurt and help women.
The Policy Director at Make It Work, Julie Kashen, shared with us about the organization’s change of focus post-election for a different kind of accountability work than what the women originally intended. After Alexander Acosta’s confirmation to head the Department of Labor on April 27th, we asked Julie about the future of women’s economic security and how women can stay active in the fight.
Kate Glavan: Why are economic issues like paid family leave, equal pay, paid sick days and a higher minimum wage so important right now?
Julie Kashen: Women are in the workplace to stay. The world has changed and the workplace has not. We’re so behind on valuing the work that women do, both unpaid care giving work and paid work. Policies can create more of a level playing field, and help us update historic unfairness.
What feels important now more than ever is that we saw so much misogyny and sexism in Trump’s campaign. It feels like we’re at a moment where we are and can be going backward. Women’s voices aren’t being listened to and women of color aren’t a part of the conversation. Lifting up the voices of women of color, especially, about the changes we must see for fairness and justice, are more important now than ever.
KG: How do you see Alexander Acosta’s appointment to the Department of Labor problematic for women’s economic security?
JK: We at Make It Work want to see progress on equal pay, paid sick days, minimum wage. We know a little bit more about where Trump is on these issues than where Acosta is, but it seems these two will go hand-in-hand. Decisions are being made in rooms with older white men who aren’t thinking about what women need. We will be watching closely to see where he is on these issues, but we haven’t seen anything in his background that suggests we have a champion for working women.
KG: What can women do to resist if harmful policies become law with a Republican majority in Legislature, the Executive and Judiciary?
JK: Well, on the flip side, it does seem like there are women-driven efforts to rise up. It does seem like women are at the forefront of that resistance. I’d encourage that to continue, resisting against bad policies includes calling members of Congress, sharing personal stories, and running for office. Make It Work’s action plan includes making sure to vote, [getting] educated on who has what position on issues you care about and telling your neighbors and friends who you’ve voted for.
KG: We are seeing a lot of activism coming from women during this administration. For example, the Women’s March was stunning because of its size. However, there were criticisms of the march; some criticized that the march was very white and privileged, full of many women who don’t typically show up to fight for progressive causes. How can we engage these same women to turn out for more intersectional causes?
JK: Make It Work is really looking into this. There are white women and WOC coming together who’ve decided that things will go better if we are both in leadership positions. Marching and protesting can be a privilege and come from privilege. If people don’t have their basic needs met, they cannot politically engage in those ways. That is why we are fighting for better economic security. It is more important that women who can really show up. We’ve heard a lot about how black women showed up in the election and voted for Hillary. Another piece of this is that progressives need to see that and make sure they are lifting up black women as leaders of the movement as well as other women of color. We all should be focused on lifting up women around us as best as we can.
KG: Make It Work released a critical statement on Ivanka Trump’s book Women Who Work. Some publications have said that she will be a champion for women’s issues. How do you think women, like Ivanka, with privilege (economically, racially, etc.) should advance women’s’ economic security?
JK: Listening to women with different backgrounds is the key. Take a moment to really engage people from all walks of life to make sure their stories are ingrained in the work that we are doing. Part of our work is to make sure that women, mostly black women, are elevated to tell their stories. So then, when we talk about women of color, it is really connected to Jasmine’s experiences and struggles to see what could’ve help and what would still help. That’s what’s driving us at Make It Work. Hearing these stories, but truly knowing these women and men, really helps make us more passionate about what we’re doing.
KG: How do you think progressives can integrate reproductive rights and economic security into a better message?
JK: Having a baby is a huge economic decision. The ability to control your reproductive choices matter tremendously for your economic security. We know childcare alone is an average of $10,000 to $20,000 depending on the age of your child and stage you’re living in. Being able to make decisions about reproductive timing can matter a lot for your ability to pay for high quality care. I want to see more conversation about how these issues are integrally tied.
KG: As an incoming freshman in college myself, I’d argue that many teenagers, college students and young people don’t feel like they have a place in democracy besides voting and/or donating. How can young people become more involved?
JK: Well, we’ve really seen involvement when people show up at marches and rallies or push conversations on social media. Members of Congress are listening. They have heard at town halls or through tweets what their constituents care about. It does make a difference; so finding the right way to use social media is crucial because most members of Congress are tapping into the digital conversation. Also picking up the phone and calling your representatives actually matters, too. Those phone calls get tallied up.
KG: What are some goals you have for Make It Work in the future?
JK: Make It Work wants to be a part of protecting people against bad policies while amplifying the demand for things like paid leave, child care and equal pay. We want to see the popularity of these issues continue to soar and be recognized in real ways. For example, a childcare policy that makes it easier for families is where no one is paying more than 10 percent of their income. If the childcare workforce gets better pay, it leads to better quality care. That’s what real child care policy looks like. We want people to understand the facts of what we can and all should have. We will continue to lift up these types of issues and make it clear of which policies are lip service and which will change lives.
KG: What’s some advice you’ve gathered throughout your career for women, specifically young women, looking to become better activists?
JK: I’m all about doing the work. If you see a problem, dive in, ask good questions and start to see what you can do to fix it. Don’t feel like you don’t have a role, don’t question yourself. I’m hoping it’s less so in younger generations, but I think many women have hesitations about “am I good enough.” That holds a lot of us back. It’s important to say, “Who cares? Let me just do it! I am good enough”. If you give yourself that validation, that will allow you to keep moving forward. If you need to, you can always fake it ‘til you make it.
Kate Glavan is a contributing writer for The Riveter. Kate is an incoming freshman at New York University where she will be pursuing journalism, political science and fashion in the fall. She is a Minneapolis native who is writing for Man Repeller as a teen columnist and obsessively watches C-SPAN in her thrifted outfits.