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Obama talks about glass ceilings, child care, equal pay

  • Story Highlights
  • Democratic nominee pledges to make it easier to balance work and family
  • Obama urges equal pay, help with child and health care, paid sick leave
  • Sen. Clinton joins Sen. Obama at "Women for Obama" fundraiser
  • Many Clinton supporters still are not ready to back Obama
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- With Sen. Hillary Clinton beside him, Sen. Barack Obama emphasized the challenges women in his family had overcome as he reached out to female voters at a fundraiser Thursday.

Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton appears together during a fundraiser in New York Thursday.

Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton appears together during a fundraiser in New York Thursday.

The New York event was the third in which the former rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination have appeared together this week.

In an attempt to close any remaining rifts with Clinton's backers, Obama has asked his supporters to help Clinton retire her roughly $22 million of campaign debt.

Obama and Clinton have appeared together five times since Obama secured the Democratic presidential nomination in June.

During the "Women for Obama" event, the Illinois senator recounted how his mother, a single mom who put herself through school, once had to "swallow her pride" and accept food stamps to feed her family. He also recalled how his grandmother worked her way from secretary to the vice president of a bank.

"But I also saw how she ultimately hit a glass ceiling -- how men no more qualified than she was kept moving up the corporate ladder ahead of her," he said.

Obama highlighted the struggles of his wife to balance the responsibilities of her job and parenting -- and admitted that he was somewhat complicit in the situation in which most of the parenting duties fall to his wife. Video Watch Obama talk about the women who shaped him »

"As the son, grandson and husband of hard-working mothers, I don't accept an America that makes women choose between their kids and their careers," Obama said.

"We take it for granted that women are the backbone of our families, but we too often ignore the fact that women are also the backbone of our middle class.

"And we won't truly have an economy that puts the needs of the middle class first until we ensure that when it comes to pay and benefits at work, women are treated like equal partners," he said, urging a commitment to equal pay for women.

He urged "standing up for paid leave, and paid sick leave, because no one should be punished for getting sick or dealing with a family crisis."

Later on Thursday, Obama traveled to Fairfax, Virginia, to unveil a plan meant to increase women's economic security. The plan includes a tax credit of up to $1,000 for families, an increase in the minimum wage and tax cuts to help working women pay for child care, among other provisions.

Clinton, who introduced Obama, urged her supporters to back the Illinois senator, saying, "It is critical that we join forces. The Democratic Party is a family -- sometimes dysfunctional." Video Watch Clinton make her case for Obama »

"We shared this remarkable journey, and I could not be prouder to have this opportunity in front of so many of my friends and supporters to express my confidence in his candidacy and my commitment to ensuring that he will take the oath of office come next January 2009," she said.

Obama, in turn, praised Clinton for her historic presidential run, saying, "While this campaign has shown us how far we have to go, we also know that because of what Hillary accomplished, my daughters and yours look at America and themselves a little differently today." Video Watch why Obama and Clinton are appearing together »

Despite the public calls for unity, some of Clinton's supporters have been hesitant to fall in behind Obama.

With Clinton's debt yet to be paid off, some of her supporters are balking at the idea of donating to Obama -- especially if he does not choose her to be his running mate.

"I certainly know there are lots of people who are withholding their money," said Lynn Forester de Rothschild, one of Clinton's "Hill-raisers" who raised over $100,000 for the former first lady.Video Watch why some Clinton backers are balking »

"This is a hard decision for me personally because frankly I don't like him. I feel like he is an elitist. I feel like he has not given me reason to trust him," Rothschild said.

That sentiment may be sending some Clinton fans into Sen. John McCain's court.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll released last week, the number of Clinton supporters who say they plan to defect to the Republican presidential nominee's camp is down from a month ago -- but numbers of those who say they plan to vote for Obama are also down.

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Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, spent two days in New York this week with disaffected Clinton supporters.

"It's not unexpected that they wouldn't just automatically shift over to Obama, because they're not the typical Democratic supporters that just automatically shift over," she said. "They need to be wooed. They need to be won over."

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