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Focus On Gender Gap Misses Deeper Impacts Of Women's Issues

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Christina Bellantoni , Politics Editor for PBS News Hour,
Cynthia Neff, Virginia Del. to the Democratic National Convention, and
Lilly Ledbetter, pay equity activist, spoke about the gender gap on the Kojo Nnamdi Show.
Mike Martinez
Christina Bellantoni , Politics Editor for PBS News Hour, Cynthia Neff, Virginia Del. to the Democratic National Convention, and Lilly Ledbetter, pay equity activist, spoke about the gender gap on the Kojo Nnamdi Show.

During the first night of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, speakers have tried to capitalize on the gender gap between President Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney by emphasizing issues like contraception, abortion and pay equity. Prominent elected Democrats say women's interests don't stop there.

"The reason there is a gender gap is that there's an agenda gap," says Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski. "And American women know that what Ryan and Romney Republicans are offering are essentially the same old stale promises that will again disenfranchise women."

In addition to being Maryland's senior senator, Mikulski is the longest-serving woman in Senate history.

"We women, we work on the macro issues," says Mikulski. "Of course, a stronger economy and a safer country, but we also work on the macaroni and cheese issues. We want to have schools that work, we want to have daycare that's safe, affordable and available, we want to ease the burden of caring for an elderly parent."

Many Democratic women, like Maryland state's attorney Angela Alsobrooks, say part of the reason their issues aren't being addressed in Washington is that too few women hold positions of power. She says it's important to set an example for future women in leadership roles.

"There's a great concern among women quite honestly about juggling," says Alsobrooks. "How do we juggle our responsibilities as mothers, how do we juggle our responsibilities as wives and also serve your community. And I think being able to see it done in a balanced way is encouraging to women."

Others, like pay equity activist Lilly Ledbetter, who appeared Wednesday on the Kojo Nnamdi Show, said treating things like pay equity as an issue that only affects women missed the point.

"[Equal pay] is a family issue," says Ledbetter. "If women are not paid equally and equitably what they are entitled to under the law, it not only affects their everyday lives. It affects their families. It affects their future and their retirement. Once you get behind, you never catch up."

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