Sept 29, 2008 posted by Linda Basch WELCOME! Welcome to The REAL DEAL, the National Council for Research on Women's new blog on issues that matter to women. As I write this first post in the heat of election season and during a time of unprecedented financial turmoil, my thoughts go out to all who are feeling unnerved and confused. I'm thinking of those who risk losing their jobs, or who are uncertain about their businesses and have rents to pay and families to support, and of those who don't quite know where to turn for help. This is a time when we hope for a leadership that can explain and clarify what's at stake, reassure us of a real commitment, and give us some clear steps for going forward. And we at the Council are watching with an eagle's eye. This election season has prompted so many questions about women as voters and as leaders and the difference between a woman candidate and a woman's candidate , the complexities of Governor Sarah Palin's vice-presidential candidacy , and the media's often painfully sexist and racist treatment  of our candidates. And now that attention has turned from lipstick to the economy, perhaps we might finally start a national dialogue on what matters most to women —whose votes are being heavily courted by both political parties. It is important to remember that one out of eight women in the U.S. lives in poverty; women disproportionately receive sub-prime mortgages; only one in seven children eligible for childcare actually receives that care; and half the work force, of which women comprise 48%, has not one single paid sick day. The research of our network of member centers  shows us this, and much, much more. Women voters want publicly funded day care. A national study conducted by the Children's Defense Fund  found that childcare in the United States costs between $4,000 and $10,000 annually per child. Families with young or special needs children face even higher costs. And among families who paid for child care, those below the poverty level spent 25% of their income on this care. These critical costs are out of reach for so many families. Where do the candidates stand on expanding the Child Tax Credit  to all low- and moderate-income families? What is their position on increasing federal funding for child care through the Child Care and Development Block Grant ? Are they willing to fight to make the Dependent Care Tax Credit refundable to help low-income families? Women voters want pay equity. Women make up 48% of the workforce – and, yet, they represent 67.8% of the minimum wage workers . And on all fronts, even in similarly situated jobs, women still only earn 77 cents to a man's dollar. At the present rate of progress, it will take 50 years to close the wage gap nationwide. Does each candidate support the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act , which aims to restore the right of U.S. workers to seek justice if they find themselves subject to wage discrimination? In these turbulent times, women voters want accountability from Wall Street, yes, but accountability from our government too. And to the point, issues like day care, pay equity, and paid sick leave are not only women's issues, they are everyone's issues. What's good for women turns out to be good for us all. Neither presidential candidate touched on these issues in their first debate. Will they in future debates ? Will the vice-presidential candidates address them on Thursday? We shall see. Looking ahead to the second Presidential debate, a town-hall style forum in which questions will be drawn from the audience as well as from the Internet, let's make sure that women's concerns are placed front and center. Please tell us: What question would you like to pose to the candidates? Post your suggestions in the comments section and we at the Council will make sure they get passed along in time for the debate in Nashville on October 7. And in the meantime, I invite you to become acquainted with our Big Five website , where you will find real facts—and real solutions—on issues of importance to women and girls, namely: economic security, health, immigration, violence, and education. Together, let's keep it real and make our candidates accountable. Let's make our voices heard.