Women’s Economic Opportunity Blueprint:

A Roadmap to Greater Opportunities for Women in Business

Today, I’m happy to announce my Women’s Economic Opportunity Blueprint, a series of policies to create equal opportunity for women entrepreneurs and business leaders in New Jersey. As the father of a young daughter, husband of a brilliant former federal prosecutor (who is now in the business world), brother to a successful attorney, and son of a former school teacher, I know first-hand that when women succeed in the economy, New Jersey families and businesses are stronger.

Women-owned firms create 16 percent of all U.S. jobs and contribute $3 trillion to the U.S. economy. Within the next decade, women will control two-thirds of the United States consumer purchasing power. Yet, only 4.4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. But the world is changing. With women at the helm, two of New Jersey’s largest companies, Campbell Soup Company and Kings Food Markets, and small and medium sized businesses, such as Inrad Optics, have flourished and employ thousands of people across the state.

Even still, women are still paid 79 cents on the dollar compared to men. Many women are forced to leave the workplace when they start a family given childcare or leave issues, even though their families are dependent on their income. Many others can’t get access to capital to start a small business. In the past decade, 58 percent of undergraduate degrees went to women.

We are underutilizing some of the finest minds and it is costing us in productivity and economic growth. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, if women were paid equally in New Jersey, the state GDP would increase 3 percent. This would create an additional $16.6 billion in additional income throughout the state. That kind of dynamic economic potential should be what New Jersey is known for in our country. Women shouldn’t have to choose between parenting and a paycheck. These are a few ideas to help women stimulate the economy.

Ensuring Equal Pay for Equal Work

While women in the United States earn just 79 cents on the dollar compared to men, women in the 5th Congressional District are even worse off, earning only 73 cents on the dollar. We are underutilizing some of the finest minds and it’s costing us productivity and economic growth.

Women deserve equal pay for equal work. This means prohibiting employers from punishing employees who disclose their salaries and allowing individuals who are found to have been victims of gender-based discrimination to recover lost wages.

Eliminating the “Motherhood Penalty”: Promoting Paid Family Leave

Women should not be forced to take a 20 percent less pay because they’ve started a family. We must promote policies that help both parents manage the demands of raising a family with the demands of the workplace, rather than having to choose one or the other. This means working together to find common ground on Paid Family Leave, for companies greater than a certain size.

In my time at Microsoft, we saw the benefits of extending our family leave package to 20 weeks. We should pass legislation that strengthens the incentives for companies, large and small, to extend family leave and ensure that workers need not choose parenthood or a paycheck.

Expanding Access to Child Care and Early Childhood Education

No parent should have to choose between a child and a paycheck. One of the greatest barriers to women reentering the workforce is the high cost of quality childcare. The average cost of childcare for a New Jersey family is $21,000; for many, it is even higher. Currently, families with incomes greater than $43,000 cannot claim the full 35 percent of the Child Care Tax Credit, too. Hard-working families should be able to claim the full tax credit for their childcare expenses.

Encouraging Access to Entrepreneurial Tools

Only $1 out of every $23 in small business loans is granted to a woman. Supporting women-owned businesses by providing them access to capital and familial support services is a smart investment in the New Jersey economy — one that we should continue to promote. We must embrace policies that make it easier for women to start and grow a business, specifically when it comes to access to credit.

For instance, mentoring programs are vital for promoting female entrepreneurs and employees. Research has shown that organizational mentoring programs lead to superior wage growth and career success for women in organizations. In New Jersey, women-owned businesses have grown 48 percent, from 155,000 to 230,000, in less than two decades, contributing roughly $45 billion to our state economy. With greater mentoring and support, that number should continue to climb – and further power our economy.

This also means starting early and focusing on vocational training for young women in technical manufacturing including fields such as Computer Numeric Control (CNC) machining.  The mean national salary for CNC machinists is $42,120, and, in certain industries, that average salary is as high as $81,750. These are good paying jobs that we should be striving to bring into the District.

Making College More Affordable

Women are now 20 percent more likely than men to graduate college, but they are also facing a disproportionately greater student debt burden.

We need to support measures that make college more affordable, such as students being able to refinance student loans at lower rates. We need to make it easier, not harder, for students to finance investments in their future and ours.

Moreover, in New Jersey, we have a shared belief that working hard should lead to a better life for our children. College costs continue to increase 4 percent per year, and the average college graduate enters the workplace almost $30,000 in debt. Yet, women with college degrees earn 83 percent more than women without college degrees, a sound investment we should encourage. To ensure that our young men and women keep our economy moving forward, we must make college affordability a priority

Encouraging More Women to Enter STEM-Related Jobs

By 2018, there could be 2.4 million unfilled Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) jobs in the United States. Today, women in New Jersey hold fewer than 30 percent of the engineering certificates in the state and only 27 percent of STEM-related jobs. We must do more to encourage women to enter STEM fields. In New Jersey, STEM jobs pay a median salary of almost $43/hour; nearly double that of non-STEM jobs. Women in STEM jobs earn 33 percent more than those in non-STEM occupations and experience a smaller wage gap relative to men. By closing the STEM education gap, we can help ensure future generations can keep our economy moving. Read the full Five Point Plan to Close the STEM Education Gap here.