Women across the country find themselves squeezed economically as things like groceries and tuition get more expensive yet wages stay about the same. In addition, an increasing number of women are the primary or sole provider in households with children, even further raising the economic pressure. Add to that the increasing number of middle-aged women who find themselves "sandwiched" between supporting their grown children and their own retired parents and it's no surprise that fears about jobs and the cost of living are front and center in the minds of most American middle-class women.
Women cast the majority of ballots in this country, but are often treated as a niche voter group. Political pundits talk about "women's issues" in elections and assume that hot-button controversies – abortion, for example – are more relevant to female voters' votes and lives than the actual day-to-day work of raising families and making ends meet.
What these pundits miss is the disconnect women feel between Washington and their everyday lives.
Research released this month from YG Network, a center-right nonprofit group (for which, full disclosure, I am an issue advocacy adviser) shines a light on the challenges that middle-class women are facing and how that influences their outlook on politics and policy. The core finding: women are worried that the American Dream is slipping away. They feel the rules are different for middle-class families for those at the very top and very bottom, and that as a result the middle-class is shrinking.
"There is no relief for me. I pay my bills. They don't," said one woman in an Arizona focus group, referring to the federal government. "We are going from crisis to crisis with no long-term strategy," said another in Virginia. While Washington spends and squabbles, middle-class women look on with frustration.
And right now, women aren't finding that either party has an answer. According to Quinnipiac, only 36 percent of female voters say that the economy is getting better. Women give both parties in Congress low marks for their handling of the issue, and despite President Obama's many pivots to the economy, among women, his "economic job approval" sits at only 48 percent.
There are many major issues that Congress and the president will face in the coming weeks after August recess: immigration, the debt ceiling, implementation of Obamacare. It is inevitable that new crises and controversies will erupt. But what women say they are looking for out of their leaders, first and foremost, is a clear strategy for creating economic growth and jobs.