Sunday, August 14, 2011

Shining Stars of Davida: Kirsten Gillibrand

Kirsten Gillibrand is one of the 17 women in the Senate. Originally a member of the House, she became a senator when she was appointed to fill Hillary Clinton’s vacated Senate seat. While I didn’t really care one way or another at the time, as I’ve become more involved in the feminist and political worlds, I’m really happy that Gillibrand has the power that she does.

Above all, Gillibrand vehemently supports Israel, believing that the American-Israeli bond must remain whole and that America should protect Israel from its enemies. She supported Israel in the Gaza War, and is endorsed by AIPAC. She once said that “[Misleading UN] findings should not be used as ammunition against [Israel], a nation that has been forced to protect its families and children from Hamas attacks.” In 2010, she supported a $2 million fund to preserve the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperative Agreement in the FY2011 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill.

Gillibrand is also very much a feminist. She is pro-choice, believes that women and girls deserve access to reproductive health care, and is against the Stupak-Pitts Amendment. If that’s not enough for you, she’s endorsed by NOW, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and EMILY’s List.

Like pretty much everyone in Congress, Gillibrand is concerned about creating jobs and bolstering the economy. She believes that one of the best ways to reach that goal is to help women attain an equal economic status to men. She supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, (the first bill that Obama signed into law), which extends the amount of time workers have to file a lawsuit for pay discrimination. Gillibrand is also one of the most vocal supporters of the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that will make it a lot easier for victims of pay discrimination to sue their employers (among many other things). She advocates for small businesses and work flexibility, holding roundtable discussions to inform women about small business ownership and introducing the Family Work Flexibility Act, which will give a tax credit to businesses that allow their employees to telecommute.

The gender gap in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) continues to persist. This not only hurts women, but all of society, because there is a severe lack of math and science teachers. Gillibrand has introduced several bills to encourage more women to go into the sciences. They include the National STEM Education Tax Incentive for Teachers Act, which gives a tax credit to STEM teachers who work in low-income schools; the Undergraduate Scholarships for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Act (US STEM Act), which provides 2,500 undergraduate scholarships to low-income students who are interested in STEM; and the Roosevelt Scholars Act, which encourages students in mission-critical fields like medicine, law, and information technology to pursue a federal government job.

Because child care is important to working families, Gillibrand, along with Senator Barbara Boxer, are working to increase the benefits that the Dependent and Child Care Tax Credit provides. She also wants to give tax breaks for offices that have on-site child care or help their employees find it elsewhere, and tax credits to people who work in child care.

Gillibrand also created Off the Sidelines, an organization whose mission is to get women off the sidelines and involved in government and politics. Off the Sidelines believes that “more women need to embrace the fact that their voice matters and that they can make a difference,” whether from their living room or the Oval Office. The website encourages women to vote, talk about the issues, volunteer, run for office, mentor, and raise money. The whole organization is really awesome, and I think it’s great that it’s able to get so much publicity.

I dub Kirsten Gillibrand an inductee into the Shining Stars of Davida - strong women and men who make us feminists proud.

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