Mayoral candidates need to debate women’s and girls’ issues

Kate Karpilow
Kate Karpilow

Most of the debate in Sacramento’s mayoral race has centered on big-ticket topics like downtown revitalization, homelessness and public transportation. But what if at least one public forum focused on policies to lift up women and girls?

Local elected officials – more so than national and state leaders – can drive changes to advance gender equity in our workplaces, businesses and government.

Here’s a list to jump-start the discussion.

Child care: With a building boom underway and our economy warming up, it’s time for Sacramento to step up planning to ensure an adequate supply of child care for working parents.

A crisis is looming. According to Child Action Inc., there’s been an 18 percent decline in the number of family child care providers in Sacramento County since 2012.

Local governments can increase child care supply using a variety of approaches – financial incentives, land donations, public-private partnerships and low-interest loans.

It takes leadership, and a committed mayor could make a difference.

Representation: Women are underrepresented in top management positions in city government and on powerful boards like the Planning and Design Commission.

While Sacramento’s top elected official doesn’t wield sole appointing authority, our next mayor could nevertheless be a relentless advocate for more women leaders in the corner offices and committee rooms of City Hall.

After all – to paraphrase Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – it’s 2016.

Sexual harassment: Two of the city’s nine elected officials have been accused of sexual harassment. The problem isn’t simply about individual behavior, but also a culture that tolerates an abuse of power. The City Council rightly responded by adopting new guidelines for training and conduct.

With a new council taking office after November’s general election, we need to know what steps our next mayor will take to banish sexual harassment from City Hall.

Women-owned businesses: Proposition 209 restricts governments from setting aside a percentage of contracts for women- and minority-owned businesses, but cities can conduct targeted outreach and education, and compile statistics on the types of companies awarded contracts.

These may be small steps, but they shine a light on who benefits from the flow of city funds. Making sure that women and minority business owners prosper should be a priority for Sacramento’s next mayor.

Parks and recreation: Twelve years ago, in the spirit of Title IX, California passed AB 2404, authored by then-Assembly member Darrell Steinberg. Now known as the Fair Play Act, this law requires park and recreation departments to offer equal opportunities for girls and boys in competitive youth athletic programs.

In Sacramento, there hasn’t been a recent review to determine if the city is in compliance. The mayoral candidates should guarantee (sorry, I can’t resist) a level playing field for boys and girls.

Economic opportunity: Women, particularly women of color, are more likely than men to live in poverty, and a higher percentage of women than men are among the working poor.

What strategies could our next mayor adopt to boost the economic status of women?

Options abound. Conduct a pay-equity study at the city – and encourage local companies to do the same. Educate employers about the rights of domestic workers for overtime pay. Assess and respond to the special needs of poor single parents, who are predominately women.

And the list goes on: prevention of violence against women; services for victims of human trafficking; recruitment of women for non-traditional jobs in public safety and the trades. And there are more.

Only eight weeks remain before the June 7 primary election – time enough for our mayoral candidates to share their policy priorities to lift up women and girls.

Kate Karpilow directs the California Center for Research on Women and Families. Contact her at