Barack Obama explains how voting can make workplaces better for women

Get thee to a ballot box.
Get thee to a ballot box.
Image: REUTERS/John Gress
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Former US president Barack Obama finally came off the sidelines today (Sept. 7) with a speech about the state of America’s democracy, in which he made sure to draw a connection between women’s equality in the workplace and the US mid-term elections. Speaking at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he made the case that the next step for the #MeToo movement is to drive its supporters to the polls in November.

“If you support the #MeToo movement, you’re outraged by stories of sexual harassment and assault, inspired by the women who have shared them, you’ve got to do more than retweet a hashtag,” he said. “You’ve got to vote.”

The rhetoric was paired with a careful explanation linking the two ideas:

Part of the reason women are more vulnerable in the workplace is because not enough women are bosses in the workplace—which is why we need to strengthen and enforce laws that protect women in the workplace, not just from harassment, but from discrimination in hiring and promotion and not getting paid the same amount for doing the same work. That requires laws, laws get passed by legislators.

There have been 476 women (mostly Democrats like Obama) running for US House seats this year, and even though some have already lost in the primaries, a record number remain in the hunt and will stand in the November elections. Many of these contenders have made #MeToo part of their campaign narrative—and research has found that women are more likely to vote for those who do. Compared with previous years, more younger women now say they are enthusiastic about voting, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

You can read the rest of Obama’s speech here.