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Trump's 'economic team of Steves' is alarming

Donald Trump
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Donald Trump

Donald Trump is about to unveil his economic plan that is expected to include tax help for working families. Yet, the economic team Trump unveiled on Friday includes zero women, zero people of color, and five men named Steve. When pushed to name a woman he would appoint to his cabinet, his daughter, Ivanka, was the only one who came to mind.

While I'm not surprised, given Trump's track record, I am nevertheless alarmed. Perhaps it's a fool's errand to expect more from the candidate who consistently demonstrates that he doesn't value women as anything more than trophies, but by shutting women and people of color out of positions of power he excludes from his team points of view that reflect more than half of our country's population and the very people who most need a voice.

Having a diverse set of advisors with a wide range of opinions and perspectives leads to more comprehensive and fairer policies. Period. Especially when it comes to economic issues, excluding women means staying blind to the economic concerns of women and working families, and as important, what the workforce looks like today, when women are primary or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of all households.

Now, I understand that men can advocate for policies that support and uplift women and that proper qualifications are, of course, the first priority when choosing advisors. But the identity of those advisors should be among the considerations. Having more elected officials (and advisors to our elected officials) who personally understand and have experienced the hardships and discrimination that women face in this country will lead to the creation of more nuanced and comprehensive solutions to what are very complex problems. Personal experiences factor into policymaking and should not be dismissed; to the contrary, they should be seen as an asset.

"Women know what it's like to be expected to bear the brunt of unpaid caregiving responsibilities for their families, all while also being the breadwinners in their households. Will Trump's group of white male advisors understand how important affordable, quality child care is for working families, or how important it is for child care providers to be paid a living wage?"

Women know firsthand what it's like to be paid less than their male counterparts when doing the same work as those counterparts, and they understand the effect that has on their current and future economic stability, as well as the stability of their families and those who rely on their income. President Obama and other prominent men have stood up for equal pay for equal work, but do we really think Trump and his economic team of Steves will? I don't.

Women know what it's like to be expected to bear the brunt of unpaid caregiving responsibilities for their families, all while also being the breadwinners in their households. Will Trump's group of white male advisors understand how important affordable, quality child care is for working families, or how important it is for child care providers to be paid a living wage?

So far, nothing Trump has ever said leads me to believe that he, or the people advising him, will. Many women know what it's like to bring home a new child and be expected back at work just a few weeks later, or forfeit vital paychecks. Have Trump and his team of cronies ever thought about how hard that is? I wouldn't count on it.

Again, I'm not saying men can't care about and fight for these policies—to be sure, many do, and hopefully more will. But women often have more of a personal stake that predisposes them to fight harder.

A diverse advisory council is essential to ensuring a bright economic future for all Americans. Women and working families are currently struggling with untenable child care costs, unlivable wages and unequal pay, among other things.

Voters are feeling the consequences of our lack of work/family policies in their shaky economic security day in and day out. And they're demanding solutions. It's of the utmost importance is that the next president of the United States be a champion for these issues. Trump would be wise to seek out and listen to advisors who look like, and have the experiences of, the diverse America he says he wants to govern.

Commentary by Vivien Labaton, co-founder and co-director of "Make It Work Action" a campaign working to advance economic security for women, men and families across the country. "Make It Work Action" is the nonpartisan advocacy arm of "Make It Work." Follow her on Twitter @vivienlab.

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