Humphrey School News—December 1, 2016

Professor Christina Ewig: Gender Equality and Equity Under the Trump Administration

Christina Ewig, professor and faculty director of the Center on Women, Gender, and Public Policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, was one of several faculty experts from the School to participate in a November 30 panel discussion on key issues facing the incoming Donald Trump administration. Ewig spoke about Trump's approach to gender equity and women's rights. Here are her complete remarks on the subject:

It is still early to tell what will happen under a Trump administration in terms of gender equity and equality. In most areas, we only have some clues. In others, like reproductive rights and health, recent appointments make the future a bit clearer to anticipate. 

At the Republican National Convention, President-elect Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, spoke of her father’s support for three policies often considered central to gender equality: equal pay, paid family leave and child care supports. Yet, we did not see any specific policy proposals during the campaign on equal pay; to the contrary, we heard comments by Trump and close campaign advisors that dismissed social scientific conclusions that a portion of the gender wage gap is due to discrimination. Based on this, and the Republican-controlled Congress, it is doubtful we will see further action to eliminate gender-based wage discrimination.

However, the Trump campaign did outline policies related to paid leave and child care; it proposed a six-month paid family leave, which would be a marked departure from the U.S.’ current standing as the only OECD country not to provide paid family leave.  We have yet to learn if the administration will follow through on this promise. Similarly, Trump’s campaign did outline some relief for American families’ childcare expenses, through a series of tax deductions and incentives. Like the paid leave proposal, we do not yet know if there will be follow-through.

But in other areas, such as reproductive rights, with the recent selection of Congressman Tom Price of Atlanta to be secretary of Health and Human Services, we can see confirmation of the trajectory hinted at during the campaign of restricting access to abortion, given Price as a congressional member was an advocate for defunding Planned Parenthood.

Also of concern is how other policies, not always considered specifically gender-related policies, may have critical implications for gender equality and equity. A case in point is the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which provides important guarantees to women in the private health insurance market—such as coverage of maternity care and breast and cervical cancer screening.  The ACA also halted the practice, common before the law’s passage, of insurers charging women more than men for health insurance. Future Secretary Price, as a congressman, proposed repealing the ACA and replacing it with a more market-based alternative.

As my research in Latin America has demonstrated, full access to women’s health care has two enemies: conservative ideologies that seek to restrict women’s bodily autonomy, and unregulated markets. Markets, if not well-regulated, will view women’s specific health care needs not as a necessity for human reproduction, but rather as an additional “risk” that gets in the way of profits.  President-elect Trump’s health policy trajectory thus far appears to embrace both of these.

Relevant work: 

  • “Inequality and the Politics of Social Policy Implementation: Gender, Age and Chile’s 2004 Health Reforms.” (with Gastón A. Palmucci). World Development. 2012, 40(12): 2490-2504.
  • “Gender Equity and Health Sector Reform in Colombia: Mixed State-Market Model Yields Mixed Results.” (with Amparo Hernández Bello). Social Science & Medicine. 2009, 68(6): 1145-1152.
  • “Reproduction, Re-reform and the Reconfigured State: Feminists and Neoliberal Health Reforms in Chile.” In: Isabella Bakker and Rachel Silvey, eds. Beyond States and Markets: The Challenges of Social Reproduction. New York: Routledge Press, 2008, 143-158. 
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