Battle for women's votes: 6 flash points

The uproar over the Obama campaign’s 'Life of Julia' Web infographic – which made #Julia big on Twitter – highlights just how fiercely both parties are fighting for the women’s vote. The economy is by far the most important issue in November for both sexes. But there are other areas with special significance to women. Here are the main flash points.

2. Equal pay

The US Census Bureau has long documented a wage gap, which in 2010 translated into women earning 77 cents to a man’s dollar for the same work and level of experience.

In speeches, Obama often mentions that the first legislation he signed after inauguration was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. The law changed the way wage-discrimination suits are handled. Now, the 180-day statute of limitations for filing suit starts with each allegedly discriminatory paycheck – not the first one.

Next on the Democrats’ equal-pay agenda is the Paycheck Fairness Act, which builds on the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and aims to make it easier for women to prove wage discrimination.

According to The Washington Post: “This act would put more pressure on employers to prove that differences in wages are not rooted in gender difference, and would make it easier for employees to divulge information about their salaries, which would in turn facilitate deterring or challenging pay discrimination.”

The legislation also bars companies from retaliating against people who raise pay-equity issues, and it provides resources to help women improve their negotiating skills.

Romney says he supports equal pay and the Lilly Ledbetter act, but he has yet to comment on the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA), which conservatives oppose. He’s in a tough spot here. Democrats are pounding the Republicans for waging a so-called war on women, and if Romney comes out against the PFA, that will fuel their argument. But if he supports it, that would alienate conservatives.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, argues that the PFA “seeks equal pay for different jobs, which is manifestly unfair” and would be a boon to trial lawyers.

“Women are already protected against discrimination by the Equal Pay Act, but without the punitive damages so attractive to trial lawyers,” Ms. Furchtgott-Roth writes in the Washington Examiner on May 1. “They can sue within two or three years of receiving allegedly discriminatory pay, if they can show they are paid less for the same work, because the act does not require ‘discriminatory intent’ for redress, just discrimination.”

She continues: “The Paycheck Fairness Act would require the government to collect information on workers' pay, by race and sex, with the goal of equalizing wages of men and women in different job classifications.”

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