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September 5, 2013: Labor Day the Women's Way:Did you know the US Department of Labor has a whole office devoted to expanding opportunities for women in paid employment? The Women's Bureau's mission includes furthering "the interests of working women; to advocate for their equality and economic security for themselves and their families; and to promote quality work environments." If you believe in pay equity, gender discrimination, and the role of child care policy in women's economic status, the Women's Bureau has your back. Here is the Labor Day message from the federal agency working on those goals.
September 5, 2013: Why Should You Care About Minimum Wage Laws?:There were protests and demonstrations in about 60 American cities on August 29th in support of increasing the minimum wage, particularly for fast food and restaurant workers. Most people assume that low wage workers are teens, or others not entirely dependent on their own earnings for their support. In fact, the vast majority of low-wage workers are over 20 years old. More than 30% of these workers are over 40. Minimum wage policy is clearly not kid's stuff. More than half of minimum wage workers are women, and of these, nearly a third are supporting (or trying to) dependent children. Most are working full-time, and earning at least half of the entire household income. So, yes, let's be frank - minimum wage policy is very much a women's issue, a family issue, and a national economic security issue.
September 5, 2013:Child Care in the US: All Over the Map: Much of the child care in this country is well below the quality it ought to be. This is a problem for kids, of course, but also directly affects parents' work availability, household income, stress levels, and other aspects of family life. The burden falls mostly on mothers, married or not, because mothers are still expected to manage or perform most child care. Our friends at the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) just released Better for Babies: A Study of State Infant and Toddler Child Care Policies, which lists the following as "key findings":
- In most states, child-to-provider ratios and group sizes exceed national expert recommendations. Further, a handful of states do not regulate group size at all.
- While more than half of states (30) reported having specific infant-toddler training for providers, most state requirements for the number of hours of training are minimal, and the content of training curricula related to infants and toddlers is limited.
- Twenty-one states report licensing standards that require a consistent primary caregiver for infants and toddlers. A few additional states encourage continuity of care through other means, including regulations, policies, or waivers.
- Most state standard subsidy reimbursement rates for infants in center-based care fail to meet federally recommended levels.
- Twenty-two states report offering rate differentials or higher payment rates for infant-toddler care. Higher payment rates for infant-toddler care can offset higher costs and support quality enhancements.
- Forty-one states report subsidy policies that pay child care providers for days when a child is absent, a policy particularly important for infants and toddlers who have more frequent illnesses and require more frequent doctor visits than older children.
- Fourteen states reported using direct contracts with child care providers in their subsidy system to increase the supply or improve the quality of subsidized infant-toddler care.
Improving child care will necessarily include addressing these issues. Of course, we have to deal with the fact that only 1 out of every 6 children poor enough to be eligible for a child care subsidy actually receives it. And care for all children above that threshold can be hugely expensive, and vary greatly in quality too. The President's efforts to improve early education are definitely a start.
September 5, 2013: Keep Your Eye on the "Caring Economy Campaign":A caring economy values the contributions of all people, especially those who sustain people and the planet, and that's women, of course!! (Full disclosure: The NAMC is a part of this coalition, and Your (Wo)Man in Washington, Valerie Young, is a proud member of the Advisory Council.) You should take a look at their newsletter to learn about a new bill to be introduced when Congress reconvenes called the "Family Act", creating a paid family and medical leave insurance program. How it will work and why we need it is explained right here. You can also find out about the leadership program, a seminar-style online interactive course that will turn you into a confident leader for change.
September 5, 2013: "Opting Out" Resurfaces in a BIG Way: It's been 10 years since the New York Times Magazine published the "Opt Out Revolution" article suggesting educated and well-compensated women were leaving the workplace in droves, preferring to stay home with their children. Fiercely debated for years, critics insisted that most women didn't have a choice, and the "opting out" notion was largely overblown. Most mothers simply have to work for economic reasons. The minority of mothers, those who could afford to forego paid employment, often bailed because the lack of flexibility made working intolerable. With the benefit of hindsight, the New York Times takes another look, in a big feature in its Sunday Magazine titled The Opt Out Generation Wants Back In. Some women found themselves in dire straits, if their marriage crumbled after they'd been home for years. Others struggled to find any employment. Many were able to re-enter the paid work world, but found themselves in less prestigious positions and with far lower salaries.
Once again, the reaction was loud. Everybody had a story to share, and share they did, on the NYT parenting blog, in "Why Opt Out Moms Can't Catch Up" from Forbes, and from The Broad Side, "I Regret Having Opted Out". The NYT also printed a handful of letters to the editor. My take-away: there is a serious disconnect between paid employment and mothers, who have ambitions as both parents AND workers. Most reported frustration, either from being all in at work and not being able to mother how they wanted, or having to give up on their professional identities entirely to mother exclusively. Their personal sacrifice, in the public sphere, reveals gaping economic inefficiencies. To achieve their potential, children need to be well-cared for (by both mothers and fathers). To maximize their economic potential, parents need to be able to move quickly and smoothly between work and other obligations. We continue to pay a huge price, personally and nationally, for our failure to update workplace policy that responds to today's workers.
July 18, 2013: A-B-C, 1-2-3: The interest in early education and child care, always a central issue for families, continues to keep advocates (that's us) and policy makers working together. Zero to Three, a national non-profit for early childhood development, hosted an online Rally4Babies and invited Jennifer Garner, Soledad O'Brien, and other celebrities to the party. Not only do they explain how a child's first few years influence so much of what follows, but the critical role mothers, fathers, and teachers play is highlighted as well. You can watch the Rally on video - it's 41 minutes well spent. If you want to support this cause, the National Women's Law Center wants to hear your story about how your child has benefitted from high quality early learning. Let them know about your experience here. They'll make sure it gets to members of Congress. And if they don't do what you want them to, remember to elect somebody else next time!
July 18, 2013: Who's Online? Family Caregivers, That's Who!: Men and women who look after children or other dependent adults are more likely to be surfing the web, looking for better ways to care for those they love, and for dealing with the stress that work generates. But does the internet deliver? Not so much, according to a new Pew study. The bad news is that most family caregivers report unsatisfactory results looking for online resources. The good news is that data is being collected and family care is seen as a topic worthy of study and discussion. That kind of information is crucial in advocating for policies that will make caregivers' lives healthier and more productive. Bring it!
July 18, 2013: Why Aren't We Finland?: A higher percentage of their babies live until age 5. They have affordable child care, paid parental leave, family income supports, happier people, greater equality, and less poverty. On the other hand, people in the US get to buy more stuff. Or at least some of the people do. Why the big difference? There's more than one reason, of course, but according to The Secret to Finland's Success with Schools, Moms, Kids, ...and Everything, in The Atlantic, ".... because women helped form modern Finland, things like maternity leave and child benefits naturally shaped its welfare structure decades later." Ah, so that's why having women in elected office makes a difference! Note to self - elect more women.
July 18, 2013: Short Shorts - or stuff that I want in this enews but my editors say it's too long already!!:
- Strong and Happy Girls..or how I wish women were portrayed in the media all the time. "Girls Like Us" is a 31 second video from ESPN to share with your daughters...and sons. It's GREAT!
- Ambition in a different form....Moms know that raising children and running a household, even with an all-in partner, takes LOTS of time and energy. Sure we want to succeed at work - but we mostly want to be sure our children are getting what they need, and that we have time to be present as parents, according to "Coveting Not a Corner Office, But Time at Home" in the NYT.
- What are you due? Those great women at Legal Momentum, a wonky non-profit working for women's economic security, put together this nifty map and the accompanyingguide that will tell you what your state offers in terms of maternity leave, pregnancy discrimination protection, and breastfeeding rights. If you're deep into these issues, you'll also want to take a look at the Institute for Women's Policy Research's new report on "Maternity, Paternity, and Adoption Leave".
July 2, 2013: The Math in Your Marriage: Attentive readers of this enews will remember Betsey Stevenson from the last edition where I mentioned her nomination to the President's Council of Economic Advisers. She took a turn in front of the mic, with her partner and the father of her children, Justin Wolfers (check out that accent!), to talk about the economics of marriage. It's a 47 minute video, and will get you thinking about how the work gets done in your own home, and how money influences so much more of your marriage than you think. Listen while you work out, or make dinner, or commute - you'll find gender, politics, money and sex right here.
July 2, 1013: Opting Out of Motherhood: Fewer women are choosing to become mothers. If enough women make that decision, everything will change. This article from AlterNettalks about the reasons for that choice - did you think about any of them?
And then there’s the push, the realization that having children may incur financial and psychic costs that a person can’t or doesn’t want to pay. The conditions for parenting today are, in many ways, incredibly averse. Whereas for most of human history, children contributed to households and communities, today they are a financial burden instead of a help. Alongside this development, the amount of time parents are expected to invest in children has skyrocketed, as have the demands on workers. The bars for good parenting is set higher than ever, spending significant amounts of time at work is non-negotiable for most, and social and state support has been waning. This turns life into a macabre version of the old spectacle of spinning plates.
July 2, 2013: Boring, Boring, Wonky, Wonky: I got into the women's advocacy business because I just couldn't ignore how often mothers are on the losing side of the equation. For instance, women's poverty rates are nearly double men's, there are fewer of us with access to power and resources, and so much of our time is spent doing unpaid or poorly paid activity. Minimum wage policy may not be exciting, and you may think it just doesn't figure in your life, but you can't ignore the fact that almost half of ALL minimum wage workers are women. In fact, there are twice as many adult women in minimum wage jobs than adult men. I just cannot accept that women PREFER low paying work - something else is going on here. A bill to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 has been floating around Capitol Hill for ages, without success. Here's a great interactive map with state by state info about women and the minimum wage. Passing that bill would give millions of mothers a chance to earn enough to actually sustain their families. "Working" and "poor" should be mutually exclusive.
July 2, 2013: Why You Want a "Right to Request": One factor in the mismatch between the culture of the workplace and the daily lives of workers is an employee's fear of retaliation if s/he asks for a flexible work arrangement. What if your boss gets the idea that you're not a valuable member of the team because you want to work from home 1 day a week, or come in early so you can leave early to get to the child care center? A right to request law lets you ask about the possibility of a new arrangement, without exposing you to being fired, or demoted, or punished in any way. The employer doesn't have to grant your request, just allow you to make it, consider it, and respond. Other countries have these laws in place (in the UK it's called the "soft touch" law) and the US is starting to think about them too. According to the Center for Law and Social Policy:
Last month, the state of Vermont passed the country’s first law that includes a provision giving workers the “right to request” a flexible work schedule. And on the heels of Vermont’s exciting victory, earlier this month, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu introduced a proposed ballot measure for rules that would give workers who are caregivers a “right to request” flex work. Such laws allow employees to file requests with their employers to telecommute, job share, work part time, or adjust their schedules – all options that can greatly reduce the burden parents and other caregivers face when trying to meet the demands of their jobs and care for their families.
If you knew you couldn't be fired, or passed over, or suffer any negative consequences for asking about a different kind of work arrangement, would you be more likely to ask for one?
July 2, 1013: Embracing the Future with Cokie and Steve Roberts: Now that we've reached the point that so many mothers do paid work and bring home a considerable portion of the household income, maybe it's time for a practical discussion about how fathers and the workplace will change too. "Employers and workplaces must accommodate these "breadwinner moms" with more flexible schedules, telecommuting, paternity leaves and new measures of professional progress. Staying in the office every night till 10 just does not cut it anymore. And every smart employer knows that making reasonable concessions to these new family dynamics produces greater employee productivity, loyalty and retention." Solid advice, coming from this dual career couple, married over 40 years with two adult children, in this recent online article.
June 20, 2013: Women, Economics, and the White House: Betsey Stevenson will soon take her seat on the President's Council of Economic Advisers. She understands what happens to women's economic status when they become mothers. She is one, as well as an economist and professor of public policy. (That must be handy!) As reported in Salon:
Stevenson spoke in D.C. on Wednesday at a New America Foundation forum devoted to issues affecting contemporary families, including single motherhood, new trends in divorce and if and how marriage equality will transform the institution of marriage. Since the president had announced his intent to appoint Stevenson to the three-person council just two days earlier, her insights about marriage, divorce and women in the labor force were particularly interesting: She’ll now be tasked with giving the president economic advice to inform domestic policy, meaning she’ll have an effect on the home lives of countless Americans.
Families could do with a champion, one who understands that parenting, employment, and family carework are all economic activities, and should be treated as such for purposes of our public policies. Best of luck, Betsey!
June 20, 2013: Congress Jeopardizes Mothers' Health: The sequester is literally taking the food out of the mouths of American children, and putting the lives of mothers at risk. So say the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, among others. In this joint statement, they emphatically denounce budget cuts to discretionary spending proposed by the US House Appropriations Committee, and urge investment in maternal and infant health and well-being. "The nearly 19 percent proposed cut in overall spending for the labor, health and education bill, coupled with the existing five percent cut already implemented for FY 2013, would devastate already fragile budgets for programs that support public health and prevention, life-saving research, childhood immunizations and maternal, infant and early childhood home visitation, among many others." Of course, women and children don't make big donations to political campaigns - will Congress listen to health organizations speaking out on their behalf?
June 20, 2013: Pregnant Women Beware: NPR's Jennifer Ludden takes to the airwaves again on behalf of mothers and tells some tough stories about pregnant women unfairly treated at work. Her report demonstrates the need for the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, now floating around Capitol Hill, and includes a list of places you can contact for help. Do you think allowing a pregnant worker a few minutes to sit down, a bathroom break, or a drink of water is too much to ask of employers?
June 20, 2013: US House to Vote on Bill Banning Abortion After 20 Weeks: Called the "Pain Capable Child Protection Act", the bill is premised on the theory, still controversial, that a fetus is sensitive to pain at 22 weeks. Originally containing only an exception to save the life of the mother, the bill now contains exceptions for rape or incest, but only if the rape or incest had been reported to the appropriate authorities prior to the abortion, according to ABC News. The debate will be managed by Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, even though it was introduced by Rep. Frank of Arizona. Rep. Frank attracted a lot of attention last week when he insisted the rape exception was unnecessary, since rape only very rarely resulted in pregnancy, as reported in Politico. The US Supreme Court has previously struck down similar bills, and this ban is all but certain to fall in the US Senate. Nonetheless, the House leadership plans to take it to the floor for a vote this week.
June 6, 2013: Fathers on the Homefront: I was recently surrounded by fathers who constructed their lives to share care of their children equally with their wives. Some had chosen work that could be tailored to their particular specifications, others had re-worked situations they were already in. They spoke of a deep desire to enlarge the dad role beyond the parameters allowed by the standard work week. One said he was determined to know how to care for his new baby as well as his wife did so he wouldn't be scared or intimidated when they were alone together. They all reported high levels of personal satisfaction and happiness, and emphasized that our concept of "Dad as good provider" needed to expand beyond bringing home the bacon to their nurturing of and care for their children. Wave of the future? Maybe. You could add a book on the subject to your Fathers' Day gift list - The Modern Dad's Dilemma: How to Stay Connected With Your Kids in a Rapidly Changing World by John Badalament, or Dad or Alive: Confessions of an Unexpected Stay at Home Dad or Michael Chabon's Manhood for Amateurs.
June 6, 2013: Male Identity @ Work: The novelty of dads at home is a function of the fact that most men with children spend more time making money than making, say, mac 'n cheese. Joan Williams, Director of the Center for WorkLife Law at UC Hastings, explains Why Men Work So Many Hours by our notions of manliness, moral stature and status. What this does for women, paradoxically, is decrease the number of hours they can work, and keep them from progressing into top jobs. "Only 45.3 percent of mothers who graduated from top-tier institutions — and only 34.8 percent of MBAs — have full-time jobs. Most aren't full-time homemakers: in addition to parenting, they typically have part-time jobs or community service roles. But you can bet your boots it's under-valued work that rarely, if ever, leads to positions of power." If women are to increase their public power, men will have to invest more of their time in family life.
June 6, 2013: If You Only Read One Thing On This Page, Make It This One: You may have heard about the new data showing mothers are the only or higher earner in 40% of all US households, up from 11% in 1960. Brigid Schulte wrote about it in a particularly good piece for the Washington Post. There are several reasons for the uptick - one is the increase in single mother households, where she is the only earner, and the earnings may or may not be enough. Another is the massive migration of women into the paid labor force in recent decades, the fact that men's wages haven't gone up in years, and that women's superiority in earning advanced degrees can push their income beyond that of their husbands. One might hope that our increased clout would speed up the arrival of paid sick days, paid family leave, and better child care as minimum labor standards in the US, but so far we have been willing to absorb this stress ourselves without changing our public policies. But none of that is the REAL story.
June 6, 2013: The REAL story is the absolute hysteria this report incited amongst those thoughtful men over at Fox News. You just have to watch their He-Man Woman-Haters Club meeting in this clip - it is UNBELIEVABLE what these men say! "Watching society dissolve around us" because employed women are supporting their families. I have to admit, I wondered more than once if this was a joke and the dialogue scripted and staged, because what they say is so ridiculous, but their attitudes just so sincere, I conclude that they are serious. (Now don't come after me for denigrating the value of family carework. Of course it is the starting point of everything, and of course those who do it ought to have more influence and meaningful public and private support. I just cannot allow to go unchallenged the premise that mothers in the paid work force will single-handedly bring about the very downfall of civilization. I mean, really!)
June 6, 2013: A Book for Us - MOTHERS UNITE!: Faithful readers of Your (Wo)Man in Washington blog have already heard about Dr. Jocelyn Crowley's new book, Mothers Unite!: Organizing for Workplace Flexibility and the Transformation of Family Life. It features the NAMC and even drops the name of yours truly! The book is now on sale, and if you are a card-carrying member of the NAMC (which of course you should be!!) you know where to go for your super-secret 30% off discount code. Not convinced?? Read an excerpt of the bookhere, and then click over to this interview with the author.
May 23, 2013: Mothers Day Facts and Stats: According to the US Census Bureau, just over 4 million American women celebrated their first Mother's Day ever this month. Mothers are getting older, with the average age now at 25.4 years, and most max out at 2 children. The vast majority of new moms have a high school diploma, and almost a third have a bachelor's degree. Almost 90% of children live with their biological mothers, and 62% of women who gave birth in the past year are already back at work. (They must be exhausted.) Five million women identify themselves as "stay at home", and 10 million moms are single parents in homes with children under 18. That's three times more single mother households than in 1970.
May 23, 2013: Who Da Mom?? Who Da MOM??: Every woman needs help to deliver, and attended births have saved the lives of countless mothers. But who is providing that help, and where, vary widely around the world. "Birth Culture" is an 18 slide collection accompanying Life's Unequal Beginnings in the New York Times. It's my Mother's Day gift to you.
May 23, 2013: Sheryl Sandberg Will Only Get You So Far: Sure, I lean in with the best of them, and I bet you do too. At some point, we all want interesting work and productive, happy families, and that's plenty ambitious. But let's be frank about the players in this goal of maternal status - it's not all up to us. My friend and "MomAgenda" columnist at Women's Enews, Allison Stevens, notes that "Gender equality isn't an item for a working mom's long to-do list. It is the responsibility of society, and we as a populace must organize to demand it. Until then, tired mothers and caregivers shouldn't be pushed to work any harder." Read her piece Until Motherhood Gets Easier, I'm Leaning Back
May 23, 2013: Dear Disney, Don't Mess with Merida: Mothers across the country were NOT pleased when Disney decided to re"vamp" Merida, the star of Disney's Brave into a saucy sexpot with a wasp waist, plunging neckline, and disarmed of the bow and quiver. The whole point of Merida was to offer an alternative to the typical Pixar Princess who sang to animals, floated around in a virginal fog until she fulfilled her destiny by marrying a prince. Social media saved the day, as an aggressive Change.org campaign persuaded Disney to change its mind. Women in the World interviews Merida's creator here.
May 23, 2013: And While We're On the Subject...I See Famous Women: It's great when women engage on how they are portrayed by media, and even better when they can force a change, like the Disney decision above. One mother turns her lens towards meaningful role models for her daughter and achieves stunning results. Photographer Jaime Moore captures her daughter as Helen Keller, Coco Chanel, Amelia Earheart, and more. (Like Merida, none of them married a prince either!)
May 9, 2013: Leaning In on Our Own Terms:Every paragraph of this article from The Atlantic was worthy of highlighting. I can only pick one to put here, but I encourage you to read the whole piece - it's not long. It puts the whole hot mess right out there. Like so many of our discussions lately, it was prompted by Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, which reports that 43% of highly qualified women with children leave the workforce for some period of time. This makes the author reflect on her own situation in "Why 43 of Women with Children Leave Their Jobs, and How To Get Them Back".
I was missing out on key moments in my daughter's life and I was an exhausted, nervous wreck. It would be an easy story to say that my consulting firm pushed me out—but it was the opposite. They tried hard to keep me. They let me work from home often and take time off for appointments. "Just get the job done," they said. That was the problem, though—getting the job done was all about giving everything to the job, and that wasn't sustainable for me once I had a child. I don't fault my firm at all. They are a scrappy service business that needs to consistently deliver high value to their clients by working better and harder. I was good at my job, which was why they were willing to accommodate me—but it was also why, after having my second child, I had to leave.
May 9, 2013: We Didn't Get Into This Fix On Our Own!: I came across this feisty piece in an Australian publication, and it is worth reading precisely because it is not the "American" voice we are used to hearing on work/family issues. I put it up on the always engaging Woman in Washington Facebook page (go find and "like" it right away!) but I think it is so important it certainly deserves inclusion here as well. It's true, what author Clementine Ford says in Why 'Can You Have It All' Is This Century's Dumbest Question - as long as we don't inconvenience other people or ask change of their behavior, we can be as feminist as we want. Trouble is, gender equality DOES require change, of everyone - and thinking that we can get over systemic discrimination just by working hard all on our own is a fallacy.
Under our current model of supposedly post-feminist society, can women have it all? No. Why not? Because a) we're not living in a post-feminist society and the systems of patriarchal oppression that have historically exploited women as resources are still very much in operation across much of the world; and b) the matter of women's liberation is still thought to be a concern for them alone, with the demands that any efforts to secure it be done not just independently of men but with the absence of impact on them entirely. The question therefore isn't 'can women have it all?' but 'how are women systemically denied equality and who's benefiting?' Gender inequality wasn't created by women and their unreasonable ambitions. It's vital that we shift the focus of women's oppression back to its beneficiaries rather than perpetuate the kinds of meaningless conversations that imagine these things are perplexing problems for women alone to solve.
May 9, 2013: Results Guaranteed - You Can Be An Expert On Work/Family Policy: I was blown away by this briefing about "national family policy" (or in my words a total LACK of societal support for parents generally and mothers in particular) because of its star power. Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (mother of three), writer Judith Warner, and former White House senior staffer to Michelle Obama, Jocelyn Frye, contributed tremendous insight into this just-over-an-hour gathering. You will have a better understanding of the difficulties women and mothers face in the USA, and what it will take to improve them, if you can carve out 60 minutes to listen to this and turn yourself into a true policy expert. I guar-an-tee it, or your money back!
May 9 , 2013: Name It. Change It.:Those savvy women at the Center for American Progress are taking no prisoners - there was very frank talk recently about politics and sexism, and how female candidates are subjected to a different kind of scrutiny than their male counterparts. Talking about a woman's looks, good or bad, discredits her in the public sphere as a serious candidate and decreases her chances of a successful campaign. You will be shocked at what really goes on, because it goes mostly unreported by mainstream media. You can click through on this link and watch a video of the event - I thought the best bits were the remarks by Sam Bennett of She Should Run, and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge of Ohio, who said, among other things, she has faced more barriers because she is a woman than because she is black.
April 25, 2013: Every Working Mother's Nightmare: Pop quiz - How do we care for the number one national treasure this country has, our children? Surely we have made certain that each and every child has a safe environment geared to his or her development, utilzing the latest research with nurturing, qualified staff. Wrong! According to The Hell of American Daycare, "We're not thinking about, 'Wow, we have this need out there. We need trained professionals to help fill it,' " he says. "We're thinking, 'Oh yeah, someone's got to watch the kids. Let's pay 'em like baby sitters." If we had accessible, first-rate and affordable day care, would some of the controversy surrounding working mothers fade? Would moms feel less guilty? Read the article, or listen to the NPR interview.
April 25, 2013: Leaning In Goes On and On and On: My interest in this whole "having it all" discussion is waning, and I'm more motivated than most to be paying attention. Here's a subvervsive view of the whole issue from a feisty Australian at DailyLife.com:
Under our current model of supposedly post-feminist society, can women have it all? No. Why not? Because a) we're not living in a post-feminist society and the systems of patriarchal oppression that have historically exploited women as resources are still very much in operation across much of the world; and b) the matter of women's liberation is still thought to be a concern for them alone, with the demands that any efforts to secure it be done not just independently of men but with the absence of impact on them entirely. The question therefore isn't 'can women have it all?' but 'how are women systemically denied equality and who's benefiting?' Gender inequality wasn't created by women and their unreasonable ambitions. It's vital that we shift the focus of women's oppression back to its beneficiaries rather than perpetuate the kinds of meaningless conversations that imagine these things are perplexing problems for women alone to solve.
Them's fighting words! You can hear Sheryl Sandberg make her case - again - in this 14 minute radio interview from the BBC.
April 25, 2013: You Talkin' To Me?: "When you tally who hold the positions of power, it becomes clear that women mostly don't. According to the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics, women hold 18.1 percent of the 535 seats in Congress. Only 17.4 percent of mayors of cities with populations over 30,000 are female, and just three of the nine Supreme Court justices are female. More women than ever ran for Congress in 2012, but we're nowhere near parity. So what's causing the gap?" You'll find the answers right here in this HuffPo piece So for cryin' out loud, run already, will ya?
April 25, 2013: Three_Minute_Interview_with_Christi_Corbett: Christi Corbett is a senior researcher at the American Association of University Women (AAUW) where she researches issues of gender equity in education and the workplace. She recently co-authored AAUW's latest research report, Graduating to a Pay Gap: The earnings of women and men one year after college graduation, which revealed how women earned less than men only a year after graduation, with identical degrees, majors, and experience. Before coming to AAUW, Christi was an aerospace engineer. She lives in the Washington DC area with her husband and two pre-school age sons, and is a very smart cookie.
April 11, 2013: Raising Daughters in a Sexist World: This just in from the American Psychological Association: Sexualization of Girls explains how sexism is conveyed through media, how it affects our daughters, and what we can do to counter it. All children must understand that the images of women they see in TV, movies, and advertising do not accurately portray the variety of female experience. As mothers, we can initiate conversations and call attention to the misleading and damaging representations of girls and women in the media.
In study after study, findings have indicated that women more often than men are portrayed in a sexual manner (e.g., dressed in revealing clothing, with bodily postures or facial expressions that imply sexual readiness) and are objectified (e.g., used as a decorative objects, or as body parts rather than a whole person). In addition, a narrow (and unrealistic) standard of physical beauty is heavily emphasized. These are the models of femininity presented for young girls to study and emulate.
April 11, 2013: Can Contraception Make A Stronger Society?: Did you know it used to be illegal to even distribute information about contraception, let alone actually sell contraceptives? Looking back over the 50 years since women could control the number and frequency of their pregnancies, experts at the Brookings Institution note that household incomes have risen as unwanted pregnancy and poverty have decreased. It's a good time to get a handle on the social effects of women exercising power over their motherhood. Access to contraception remains an issue in the implementation of the new health care law, and on the obligations of employers when they are also religious institutions.
April 11, 2013: Opt-out, Pushed-out, Kept-out: Mothering, or the unpaid domestic labor women do at home, has serious societal and economic value. Women's paid employment has serious societal and economic value. The same is true for men. But we do such a crummy job of combining these two absolutely necessary functions. Part of the reason lies in the fact that no two women have exactly the same story, but all of them are complicated and may be constantly evolving. From Nanette Fondas' very readable piece in The Atlantic:
While about one in three moms opts out of the labor force, we don't know how many of them are pushed out by long hours and inflexible workplaces. We know even less about the factors that keep them out, including unavailable and unwilling dads, as well as things like children's behavior and needs. This helps explain why the opt-out story never quite ends.
April 11, 2013: Leaning In with Sheryl Sandberg and NPR: Michel Martin of "Tell Me More" hosted a panel discussion on the philosophy of the ubiquitous Ms. Sandberg and her exhortation to women to try harder at work. Reminds me all over again that no matter what we need, we certainly also needs a broader definition of success, separate and apart from the monetary compensation you receive. You can listen or read the transcript here.
March 28, 2013: Women at War: Sexual Assault in the Military: A Senate hearing put the emotional testimony of survivors of sexual assault in the military on the record, and the handling of such claims by the authorities came in for some harsh criticism by some US Senators, particularly Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. Here's a bit of the national news coverage,and a 4 minute video of Senator Gillibrand at work. Now that nearly 20% of our armed forces are female, and that women are serving on the Armed Services committees in Congress, finally the subject is getting the attention it deserves. The issue was catapulted onto the media radar by the documentary. The Invisible War. See if it's playing at a theater near you.
March 28, 2013: Moms Organize Around Gun Control : Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense In America (formerly One Million Moms for Gun Control) organized a day for its members and supporters to visit legislators at the US Capitol on March 13 to talk about gun control. They report over 200 mothers participated and persuaded lawmakers to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, require background checks for gun purchase, among other measures. A Senate committee has approved an assault weapons ban sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, but the bill faced great opposition. The assault weapons ban portion was dropped a few days later, for fear that its inclusion would doom the success of the rest of the bill. Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, and a self-described "typical mom in the grocery store", gave a radio interiview about her new role as an unanticipated grassroots mother/activitist.
March 28, 2013: Can a Budget Be Gender Neutral?: In the battle of the budgets, Senator Paul Ryan put forward a proposal which, among other things, makes federal food assistance (SNAP) and health care for the poor (MEDICAID) into block grants and repeals the President's health care reform law. Do you think women might suffer more from cuts, given that they are the majority of Medicaid and SNAP recipients, and protected from being charged higher health care premiums under Obamacare? Block grants take federal money and hand it to the states, to dispose of as they wish. Each state, then, can impose its own eligibility requirements and change the benefits. When the federal government administers these programs, they provide more help for more people. Bryce Covert in The Nation outlines "What Paul Ryan's Budget Means for Women".
March 28, 2013: Paid Sick Days: Who has paid sick days? Seattle. San Francisco. Washington DC. Connecticut. Portland, Oregon may soon join that list. The City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that would allow workers to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year, if their employer has at least six employees. Our friends at Family Forward Oregon were major players in the effort, which got heavy push back from small business and pro-business advocates. Paid sick days were not quite as successful in Philadelphia. The City Council passed the bill, on a vote of 11 to 6, but the Mayor is expected to veto it, as he did a similar bill two years ago. It would require 12 votes to override that veto. The paid sick days movement is building in Maryland, but no vote in the state house yet.
March 14, 2013:MOTHERS AT THE BAR: No, not that bar, silly. The one in the courtroom, as in, women lawyers with children. Law schools have been graduating women at the same rate as men for decades, yet there are far fewer female partners. Why? Motherhood, of course. A legal career, especially a trial practice, is very hard to juggle with the demands of family. Moms run from the law in droves, with significant consequences on every front. But what happens to that expensive law degree, and valuable years of practice, once you've raised your children? Some law schools now offer short courses to help these mothers work their way back into the firm (From Stay-at-Home Mom to Back To Work Lawyers, NYT). One entrepreneur put together staffing groups largely of lawyer mothers who work from home on an hourly basis - at $125 per hour! (Home Is Right Where the Potomac Law Group Wants Its Lawyers To Be, Washington Post). Attorneys are unusually thick on the ground in Washington DC. I know lawyer moms here in a freelance network, Montage Legal Group, all highly qualified former big firm attorneys who take on substantive legal projects from law firms in need of staffing help. It's one option to manage your career and your family - but mothers ought to have more.
March 14, 2013: THE SEQUESTER MAKES BABIES GO HUNGRY -- #POLICYFAIL: The problem with taking a chain saw to the federal budget, which is what the sequester does as it cuts all federal programs no matter what they do, is that some essential programs which matter tremendously both now and in the future get whacked. Case in point - low income women and children who depend on public funds for their basic nutrition will go hungry. "Some 575,000 to 750,000 low-income women and children, including very young children, who are eligible for WIC — the highly effective nutrition program that serves roughly 9 million low-income women and children — will be turned away by the end of the fiscal year if the budget cuts known as “sequestration” which took effect as scheduled on March 1 remain in place." So says the Center for Budget and Policy Priorites in their excellent paper about the impact of the sequester. Anybody care to guess how much more it will cost to deal with the negative impact on their health, development, education, and quality of life both now as children, and in the future when they are adults? You think we won't be paying that?
March 14, 2013: THE PRESIDENT'S PRE-K PROPOSAL - HOW IT HELPS MOTHERS: Many thanks to Bryce Covert over at The Nation magazine for this this short and snappy chart on how universal pre-school would help the economic security of mothers. (She must subscribe to this enews - it's like she can read my mind!!) There's been lots of attention paid to how much children would gain from this proposal. But how it impacts mothers? Not so much - "Mostly missing from that conversation, though, was the other half of the equation: working parents, specifically mothers, given that women still spend the most time caring for children. The benefits for children seem pretty clear, but we have to add in the benefits that women will see if they have a quality and affordable place to send their kids every day when they head to work." Hear, hear.
March 14, 2013: GENDER MATTERS....IN FEDERAL MINIMUM WAGE POLICY: It makes a difference when you're female whether or not a new bill to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour is passed by the US Congress and becomes law. Why? First, two-thirds of workers earning minimum wage (or less!!) are women. Second, women are the majority in the 10 largest occupations that currently pay less on average than $10.10 per hour now. Third, women's wages make up a significant portion of household income - families simply cannot make it without them. Thanks to National Women's Law Center for the data!) So, write, call, or email your member of Congress, and tell them to pass the minimum wage bill, now, please.
March 14, 2013: LAND OF THE FREE, HOME OF THE ... STRESSED??: From NPR's Tell Me More, Michel Martin did a great essay this week on the US's pathetic record on work-family policies and the resulting unhappiness of parents. "In contrast with not one, not two, but nearly 200 other countries studied by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, the U.S. is the only one that offers no paid leave to have a baby and few protections for employment after children come home. And that — speaking of the happiness part — is a key reason why Coontz says that American workers express higher levels of work-family conflict than in any of this country's European counterparts." It's here, and a short read or a quick listen, at 4 minutes of audio.
February 28, 2013: Do You Use the F-Word?: We don't mother in a vacuum, and you can't separate motherhood from gender. No matter how many decades roll by, feminism can still fire people up, raise eyebrows, sometimes curl lips into a sneer, and make headlines. Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique is having a golden anniversary, and old issues are surfacing again. Do women have equality yet? Is feminism necessary? Are feminists outdated, unattractive, and angry? Whatever it once was, feminism has changed over time as well, opening an avenue for shared parenting, more at home dads, and widening the scope for men as well as women. How has it affected your life, and what role will it play in your daughters'? Here's a smattering of what's been floating around - from Jessica Valenti in The Nation, On The Anger of Betty Freidan; Huffington Post's Choice and the Feminine Mystique Fifty Years Later; NPR's On Point The Feminine Mystique at 50.
February 28, 2013: Our Cause Is Just, and Our Fight Goes On and On .....and on and on and on....: We've established that mothers can be politicians, professors, truck drivers and engineers. Do we still have to fight for some yet-to-be-won rights?
A number of international conventions include provisions ensuring gender equality and providing protections for workers with family caregiving responsibilities. The United States seeks to exert global and moral leadership as an exemplar of human rights. Yet its neglect of the needs of its own workers with family responsibilities, including its failure to ensure paid sick and paid family leave, is counter to these widely accepted human rights norms.
These are the words of Risa Kaufmann, a sister in arms and co-founder of A Better Balance: The Work and Family Legal Center, and executive director of the Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute from her recently published letter in The New York Times. The paper also ran a great piece on paid family leave featuring an interview with Vicki Shabo of The National Partnership for Women & Families. Maybe some well-placed righteous anger would be just the thing....
February 28, 2013: Sheryl Sandberg - "I Choose Both!": The Big Three are constantly in print these days about women, children and work. Anne-Marie Slaughter's name will forever call to mind "having it all". Yahoo CEO Marissa "the new baby is really no big deal" Mayer has sure made her mark. Now Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, she of the famous TEDTalk, is about to release Lean In, which purports to tell us why our progress in being mothers AND leaders has been so slow. From a book review in The Atlantic:
Sandberg's proposition, though, looks a lot more like most women's lives than the "either/or" model into which women's lives get shoved. Many women navigate the "ands" every day, juggling a work life and a family life whose demands have meshed into one another in our constantly connected, 24/7-everything world. They don't have the luxury of choosing one or the other because they are too busy doing both.
It's a reasonable argument, that women are so busy caring for children and giving it up at work that they have no time or energy to press for their own political interests and push for the changes that could seriously improve their lives. If Sheryl, Marissa and Anne-Marie are in a position to throw their weight around, more power to 'em.
February 14, 2013: Child Care - We Don't Work Without It:There are a million ways to mother, and no
one "right" way. A family ought to have options. At the
moment, there aren't as many as there should be. Mothers are either primary breadwinners
or co-breadwinners in 2/3 of American households. Women
spend more than double the time that men do providing care for children.
We make up half the paid workforce, yet are much more likely to experience
poverty. We work and raise children without a national paid family leave
policy, which becomes increasingly necessary as you move lower on the
income scale. What policy shift could really make children's lives
better, promote women's economic security, and deliver some measure of
stability to millions of households across the country? A stronger early
education and child care system, as outlined here by the Center for American
Progress in Investing In Our Children: A Plan to
Expand Access to PreSchool and Child Care.
February 14, 2013: Women's Status Around the World - Will John
Kerry Do As Much?: Hillary Clinton kept the interests of women
front and center during her time as Secretary of State. She knew that pressing for
women's empowerment around the world was the right thing to do, but also the
best and most direct route to democracy, peace, and economic progress.
Now she's gone, and how much of that part of the agenda go with her? Will
John Kerry demonstrate the same passionate commitment? If he doesn't,
will all be lost? Columnist Ruth Marcus shares my concerns in a recent Washington Post column.
February 14, 2013: FMLA Is 20 Years Old - And Businesses
Didn't Go Bankrupt!: When 12 weeks of unpaid leave became
available for about half the private sector workforce two decades ago,
opponents argued it would just kill American business. Well, that never
happened. Now, people all over are clamoring for improvements on the law,
like making more workers eligible and having some portion of the leave include
partial income replacement. From Jodie Levin-Epstein of CLASP in the
The clear majority of voters in both parties want
Congress and the president to consider new laws such as family and medical
leave insurance. A recent bipartisan
that 96 percent of Democrats and fully 72 percent of Republicans take this
view. And, for those politicians/policymakers who want to close the Hispanic
voter gap, it is notable that nearly 80 percent of Latinos consider
congressional and presidential action on FMLA to be "very important."
An expanded FMLA could be both good policy
and good politics - real opportunity for some bipartisan law-making.
February 14, 2013: Our Lack of Paid Leave Makes the US Less Competitive: In 1990, the United States offered no
mandated parental leave time, compared with a non-U.S. average of 37.2 weeks.
By 2010, the United States was offering 12 weeks’ leave, but the non-U.S.
average had leaped to 57.3 weeks. Neither in 1990 nor today did the United
States provide public paid leave, while other countries paid, on average, 26.5
percent of previous wages in 1990 and 38 percent today. Blau and Kahn found
that about 28 percent to 29 percent of the decline in the American female labor
force participation can be explained by the relative stinginess of its family
leave and part-time work policies.
So reported Wonkblog last month,
sifting data on women's workforce participation worldwide. Other countries
around the world are implementing and expanding policies to keep quality
workers connected to the workforce. Drawing on all the brainpower
available, their economies are well-placed for global competition. More
countries are increasing the amount of time off they allow, and increasing the
percentage of income replacement they pay. Without paid leave in the US,
only some mothers will be able to stay employed and generate some income when
they birth or adopt a child. Many mothers just give up and abandon paid
work, and then find it very difficult to return when the kids are in school, or
family needs have shifted, or they are compelled to resume paid
work. The US’s "either/or" approach to motherhood and work
doesn't serve us well on any level, individual, family, or as a nation. Who comes to the game with only
half the team?
January 31, 2013:Pick up a copy of What Do Mothers Need?, a collection of
essays by experts and scholars on how motherhood is changed and how our world
needs to change as a result. We're proud to boast that one submission in
the book is by our very own Lorri Slepian, NAMC Board Member and a most
esteemed "founding mother" of Mothers’ Centers and NAMC's public
policy advocacy initiative. Editor Andrea O'Reilly points out that
mothers have been neglected by feminists, overlooked by the recent Occupy
movement, and having a harder time now that even a few decades ago. “If
mother activists and scholars agree on anything, it is that a mother-centered
feminism is urgently needed and long overdue because mothers, arguably more so
than women in general, remain disempowered despite 40 years of feminism.”
Give yourself a copy for Valentine's Day!
January 31, 2013: Moms Hold the Purse Strings: Who pays the bills and manages the money in
your house? According to a recent Working Mother magazine
survey, almost two-thirds of responding moms claimed the title of chief
financial officer, and another third claims to share the responsibility with
their partner. Women have long held a huge amount of purchasing power and
were frequently targeted by advertisers. But now they are more likely to
be in charge of the long term saving and planning as well. They also
overwhelmingly want to teach their children about saving, investing, value-shopping,
and sticking to a budget. As the article says, "You run the money,
January 31, 2013: Nancy Folbre on Sharers, Takers,
Carers, Makers: This, my friends, is the source of a great
deal of the injustice we face today, as brilliantly set forth by Nancy Folbre
in her recent New York Times column:
When John Locke
laid the conceptual foundations of liberal democracy in the 17th century, he
contended that a system that guaranteed men rights over the product of their
own labor (including wild apples picked from a tree) would always prevail over
a system based on arbitrary authority, like feudal dues or taxation without
He excluded women from his theory, assuming that childbearing and
family care were not forms of labor, but like apples, gifts of nature (until
picked by men). Classical political economy,
from Adam Smith to Karl Marx, presumed that women’s domestic labor was
“unproductive” even if it was performed by paid servants.
If only John Locke had given birth, raised
infants to adulthood, and run a household himself, how different his
perspective would have been.
January 31, 2013: Mr. Mom is Dead. Really?: In spite of a flurry of articles about the
new fatherhood, I don't believe at-home Dads are sweeping the nation anymore
than I believe women will be out-earning them across the board in a few years
time, as has also been breathlessly reported recently. Still, the more
pictures and stories there are about full-time parenting fathers, the higher
the societal value placed on carework will go. Here's a couple - from the
HuffPo Parents Blog, from
the Wall Street Journal about parenting
as "a guy thing", and how it's not babysiting, but
parenting when a Dad cares for his own kids, in The Atlantic. How
do you think dads parenting publicly will change ideas about the value of
family carework? Will women benefit? Please let me know at
January 17, 2013: Invisible and
Uncounted: You probably
know that the central factor of economic productivity, GDP, does not include
what we spend a lot of time doing - raising children, running households, and
looking after family members that have trouble managing it all
themselves. This invisible work, amazingly, isn't tracked around the
world even when it is done for pay. NPR recently
reported that the UN is trying to collect data about "domestic
workers", those who look after children, clean houses, or care for the
elderly. Current estimates indicate that 53 million do this work
worldwide, primarily women, and probably half do so without any legal rights or
a single worker protection. The number of paid domestic workers has
exploded since the mid -1990's, in reaction to the number of women leaving
home for work, and aging populations, like our boomer generation.
Nonetheless, without the support of regulations setting a fair wage or
reasonable working hours, abuse and exploitation abound. Policy
making can't occur, though, until reliable, complete data is gathered, and most
nations just don't keep track. What is about "traditional women's
work", which produces and maintains people, the most basic building block
of every society, that renders it so unworthy of attention?
January 17, 2013: What's Between You and the Glass Ceiling?: "Well,
there's one word: children. What happens is that women work fewer hours than
men. They take off more time for maternity leave. They tend to also work - they're
far more likely to work part-time than men are. And according to surveys, they
seem to want it that way, though we have to always make the caveat that yes,
there is discrimination. But the major factor in the gap – both the gender gap,
wage gap and the gap at the very top, the gap among the alpha females - is due
to children." From NPR's All Things
Considered, about women's failure to reach the top of
the professional world.
January 17, 2013: Paid Leave for
New Parents - Anywhere But Here: From Lisa Belkin in
the Huffington Post:
I don't know what else to say about this
one....best just to move on!
As Zach Rosenberg
has been highlighting on 8BitDad, companies aren't
required to offer paternity leave here. That is hardly surprising because while
other countries are expanding their policies to include Dads, we are
essentially the last place on the planet that hasn't even embraced the narrower
idea of leave for mothers. There are only three
countries like this -- Papua New Guinea, Swaziland... and
the one that prides itself on being the leader of the world.
January 17, 2013: Know The Facts about Abortion: Pregnancy termination remains a flashpoint in the US, 40 years since the Roe v.
Wade decision. Here are some updated facts from the Guttmacher
Institute about women who have abortions. They are mostly
white and in their 20's, and from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
The majority have at least one child already, and were or are married or
living with a partner. About half of all pregnancies in the US are
unintended, and of these, about half are terminated. More than
three-fourths of abortions occur in the first trimester.
January 17, 2013: What CAN'T a Pregnant Woman Do?: I sat down, I napped, I may occasionally have gone for a walk when I was
pregnant. Look at these mothers-to-be - some of us will run marathons,
sing an aria, or dance a pas de deux. You go, girl! I'm cheering
for you right from my seat here on the sofa. From The Washington
Post: "So expectant mothers adapt. They perform with
precision, even as their instruments change. Dancers mourn the loss of muscle
tone as it melts away like a Dali scene. Opera singers revel in the surge of
hormones that give their voices richer, fuller timbre. Cellists lay their
instruments on their bellies and hope the baby doesn’t kick when the timpanist
strikes." Occupational hazards for the pregnant woman!
January 3, 2013: Look
Into My Crystal Ball:The
Huffington Post lists 13 parenting
trends you can expect to see in 2013. Check it out - you'll
see pictures of Princess Kate, Jessica Simpson, Alicia Silverstone, and
breastfeeding in public! Not the customary content of the NAMC
Advocacy eNews, but hey, it's the holidays!
January 3, 2013: Full-time
Parent, Part-time Worker: We
know that having children is likely to makes a woman economically
vulnerable. But what's really amazing is the number of different ways
that motherhood contributes to economic insecurity. Under the spotlight
this week - gender differences in part-time work, brought to you by the Center for Economic Policy Research
(CEPR). In the US, part time work is not simply the younger sibling of
full-time work with the same rules, conditions and compensations of full-time
work to a proportionately smaller degree. It's in an entirely different
league - for starters, the pay rate per hour is often significantly lower, even
in the same jobs. It rarely comes with benefits like access to the
employer's group health plan, or retirement savings plan. Also, federal
legislation like the Fair Labor Standards Act which protects employees simply
doesn't apply to part-time workers.
you guess who makes up the majority of part-time workers in the US?
Women! Could it be that their economic needs are so well satisfied by
their partners or others that they simply don't need to work full time?
No. Twice as many women as men are in the part time labor force because
of non-economic reasons. From the CEPR blog:
"choose" part-time jobs primarily because they are more compatible
with their outsized unpaid work responsibilities including household work and
childcare. When asked why they work part time, women answer “Child care
problems” at more than seven times the rate that men do, and are almost four
times more likely than men to cite “Other family/personal obligations.” In fact,
of the people who usually work part-time and answered “Child care problems” as
their reason why, 94.6 percent were women.
the dots - mothers trudge along, in a workplace tailored
to non-mothers, hampered by inadequate and costly child care, taking
part-time work as a consequence, with all its short-comings. If the work
of coordinating family life and raising children was regarded as more
worthwhile, men would do more of it, public supports would exist to
promote it (such as accessible quality child care, paid family leave), and it
wouldn't predispose those who do it to poverty.
January 3, 2013: Single
Mother Myths: A
lot of people who act like they know what they are talking about will tell you
that poverty and crime are the result of too many unmarried women having
kids. They are wrong. The facts of single motherhood are vastly
different from the characterizations that (mostly male, mostly white)
politicians and pundits sling around. Based on data from a recent Legal
Momentum survey, Greg Kaufmann writes in The Nation single
mothers in the US are mostly separated, divorced or widowed. In other
words, the vast majority were
married. In addition, in spite of the fact that they spend more hours at work
than single mothers in other countries, US single mothers have much higher
rates of poverty than those in other industrialized countries. The
reason? A great deal of employment is for very low wages, and public
income supports are too low. Not to mention our status as the only
advanced economy with no paid family or sick leave. Welfare queens?
Not so much.
January 3, 2013: The
Price of Motherhood Around the World: Get
out your passports - we're taking a whirlwind trip to compare the
motherhood penalty around the globe. There's no country where a woman can
escape it entirely, but there is quite a range between the best and
worst. What accounts for the difference? Access to high quality and
affordable child-care, mostly. From The New York Times Economix Blog:
The United States is about on trend with
developed countries over all: in the United States, the median childless,
full-time-working woman of reproductive age earns 7 percent less than the
median male full-time worker. For women with children, the wage gap more than
triples, to 23 percent. That gap in Japan is even bigger — the median Japanese
mother working full time earns 61 percent less than the median Japanese
full-time male worker.
Note that the 23% gap is between full time
working men and women. The post goes on to state that the gap for
mothers over all is actually much greater, because about a quarter of them
work only part-time. Countries with fabulous early education and child
care systems have the smallest gap in income between mothers and
non-mothers. Of course, the US doesn't fall into that category.
December 20, 2012: Will You Pay For Being Pregnant?:The mommy tax has been around for a long time. But did you
know that just being pregnant at work may cause others to think you are
less competent, less committed, and more irrational? Research shows that
appearing pregnant may cost you the job interview, a higher salary
if you're being hired, and promotions once employed. Certain
perceptions about pregnant women are so subtle, and so ingrained, that they may
not be recognized as discriminatory even by women! Read this article from
The Atlantic, The Pregnancy Penalty: How Working Women Pay for
December 20, 2012: What Capitalism Does to Families:"Unfortunately, we have socialized the benefits of
child-rearing more thoroughly than we have socialized the costs, taxing the
working-age population to provide benefits to the elderly through Social
Security and Medicare but providing uneven and somewhat unpredictable public support to parents. Single mothers in particular remain far more
susceptible to poverty in the United States than in similarly affluent
countries." The brilliant Nancy Folbre on the economics of
childrearing - or how the sinking birth rate reflects capitalism's privatizing
the risks of motherhood while turning all the benefits of children over to the
economy. From the Economix Blog in The New York Times.
December 20, 2012: Please, Sir, I Want Some ... More?: It's not enough to be smarter, better educated, and better trained.
Simply being more qualified isn't enough to ensure that you are being paid as
much as the guy in the next cubicle. You can work your little heart out
and wait to be noticed, but that doesn't mean you'll get pay equity. “I
can’t tell you how many times I hear stories of women who go into a negotiation
saying, ‘Oh my gosh, thank you so much, I’ll take it!’” says Ms. Houle, noting
that one student she coached even hugged her boss. “Here these women are, more
educated than ever, incurring incredible debt to get that education, and
they’re going to take whatever they’re offered. It’s like, ‘No, no, no!’ “/* New York Times.
December 20, 2012: I Am Mother! Hear Me...Online?: Here's a snippet of Joanne Bamberger from Women's Enews: "Fortunately, more
and more women, especially mothers, have started using their existing online
spaces--the so-called "mom blogs"--and the confidence they've gained
through the influence they have earned in those spaces, to flex their political
muscles. Increasing numbers of mothers online are embracing the newfound
courage that's developed from writing about their lives and families to speak
out for causes, social issues and candidates they believe in, moving from
writing about their beliefs at personal blogs to creating their own online
political communities and joining established networks that already reach
millions of readers." Just like this enews, the NAMC blogs,
(Wo)Man in Washington, and our Facebook pages - activist moms online
December 20, 2012: Three Minute_Interviw_With_Dee Dee_Myer:
December 06, 2012: Why Do We Need Paid Family Leave
NOW?: There are lots of reasons that
working people in the US should have access to family leave when they need
it. Here are 4 to remember:
- The paid
labor force is now 49% female, and women still do most of the family
carework - but the economy cannot function if we don't show up at
in 2/3 of households earn as much or more than their spouses, or are
out of five children have no full time caregiving parent at home.
US has the only advanced economy without a national program guaranteeing
some form of paid leave to workers -it's not rocket science if every other
country has come up with a plan.
Two experts at the Center for American Progress, Sarah Jane Glynn and Heather
Boushey, are proposing that a paid family insurance program could easily be
created on the existing framework of the Social Security System. You can
read their proposal for Social Security Cares right here.
December 6, 2012: Why Are So Many Single Parent
Families Poor? No Mystery Here!: Karen Kornbluh has been an advocate
for mothers and work/family policies from way back. She points out
that 25% of all children live in single parent homes in the US,
an unusually high number among industrial nations. We also
rank as the country with the 3rd highest rate of single parent family
poverty. The reason? In The Atlantic, Ms. Kornbluh
lays the blame squarely on public policy failure - no
reliable maternity leave, no paid sick leave, no affordable, high quality
child care system. "Our lack of
quality childcare and after-school programs puts these kids at risk and
endangers the nation's future in a knowledge economy. Our lack of support for
flexible work arrangements and Social Security credits for caregivers puts
these parents at risk." Unpaid family caregiving, the economy, and
public policy are all related. But the US continues to act as if that is
December 6, 2012: Motherhood and Murder Rates: It's true, many well-intentioned
advocates argue that if mothers would only get and stay married, poverty,
violence, incarceration rates, and most other social ills would decline.
I say enough already! Mothers are blamed for way too much, especially
considering the barriers and inequities they face, compared to fathers or
non-parents. And now, happily, there is some data to back me up.
Blaming single parents for violence
has long been a dog whistle talking point of the family values set, since the
phrase "single parents" actually means "single mothers,"
and "single mothers" means "poor women." But now, it seems
that some new data from Washington, DC is challenging that long-held assertion
that the out of control vaginas of the 47% are leading to big, slutty crime
rates — over the last 20 years, the murder rate in the District has dropped
75%, while the percentage of single mothers has remained steady. Sorry you got
blamed for all that murder, poor ladies.
Those bad girls at Jezebel point
to a Philip Cohen essay, Single
Moms Can't Be Scapegoated for the Murder Rate Anymore.
December 6, 2012: Gender Matters In Everything - Including
Violence: Not that we need another reason to
speak out against domestic violence - in addition to its physical and
emotional toll, it has a huge cost in economic terms as shown in
recent research. About.com
US Government Info reports: "The health-related costs of rape,
physical assault, stalking, and homicide against women by their intimate
partners exceeds $5.8 billion annually, according to a report just released by
the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)." Instead of being a shameful,
private secret, intimate partner violence is now seen as a public
health issue which public policy can effectively address. "CDC
is actively involved in ongoing efforts to prevent violence against
women," said Sue Binder, M.D., CDC Injury Center Director. "This
report provides information that is crucial in helping communities demonstrate
the impact violence against women has on society."
November 19, 2012: Why Are Women Worth Less?: Women
earn less than men, and this is one reason our poverty rate is much
higher. Many commentators explain the gender pay gap by pointing to
women's "choices" of jobs in lower-paying fields, less-demanding
work, part-time work, or work that allows them to fulfill
domestic and/or child care obligations. There is no more discrimination
at work, they say, and if women worked as long and as hard as men,
they'd make just the same. My friends at the American Association of
University Women have tested this theory and found it false by comparing
men's and women's earnings at the beginning of their working lives,
before children and "lifestyle choices" have an impact. Their
conclusion? Discrimination against women in the workplace continues.
You can read a summary on the National Women's Law Center blog and view the video of the CNN report.
November 19, 2012: Paid Family Leave - We're Already Paying For Not Having It: You
know it's gonna happen - people get sick, people get old, people have
children. It's happening now, and it increases costs, even though
family leave insurance is not the official policy. Cali Williams Yost
writes a very persuasive essay in Forbes. An excerpt:
the U.S., we pride ourselves on our capitalistic, profit-oriented
savvy; therefore, given the growing magnitude of employee caregiving
realities, you would assume that employers would support a clear,
consistent uniform strategic response. One that minimized business
disruption and kept employees engaged and productive over the long-term.
Unfortunately, the reality is the exact opposite.
from being a tax, job-killing or anti-business, paid family leave
boosts the bottom line. It doesn't make sense not to have it.
November 19, 2012: Three Minute Interview with Jessica DeGroot, Founder and President of ThirdPath Institute
all said from time to time, "There's got to be a better way!" Between
work and home and everything else, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and
totally stressed by the expectations we place on ourselves and the
unrealistic demands of modern life. Jessica DeGroot believes she has a
better way, the so-called "third path" that puts family and personal
time on a more integrated footing with work. We chatted via email, and
this is what she had to say:
1. ThirdPath's motto is "Creating Time for Life". How can that be done?
of adding care giving responsibilities to a job that is already
demanding too much of you, ThirdPath helps care givers look for
"win-win" flexibility so they can succeed in both work and the important
job of care giving. We also encourage care givers to create a
partnership at home. When mothers and fathers (or extended family) share
in the joys and responsibilities of providing care it creates stronger
families and more support for care givers. Lastly, another critical
ingredient to success is learning how to say no - both at work and at
home; Read more.
November 19, 2012:
Men - The Other Side of Work/Family Fit:
and women rarely fall neatly into entirely separate domains. For
better and for worse, we will succeed and fail together. An increase in
women's engagement and leadership requires teaching both our sons and
our daughters about the exercise of power in the world they will
inherit. From the Harvard Business Review's blog:
to more recent provocative media coverage, the changing roles of women
at work and men at home do not signal the rise of the former at the
expense of the latter. The trends are far more nuanced. The couples in
these studies seemed to be trying to divide bread-winner and caregiver
duties between them, moving well beyond the norms of past decades.
Indeed, fathers and mothers now face many of the same struggles at work
and at home.
does not belong to a single gender. Sexy titles foretelling the end of
men and the dominance of women might sell books - but cross-training
for both work at work and the work of the home is a more realistic
November 1, 2012: Are Women Better Suited To Housework?: Both political parties contribute to
gender inequality and exploit the difference between men's and women's economic
status to reinforce a political structure that fails parents and children,
according to Salon's
recent "Devaluing Care Work - And Women". Paid
sick days legislation, and getting home health aides the same protection other
workers have, continue to fail in state assemblies and still don't register in
national politics. Why? Because care work is done mostly by
women, often for free, is poorly regarded, and it's women who pay the
price if a family member falls ill or child has to stay home. We've
shown a real lack of desire in pushing for national policies that would improve
our status at home.
As Jessica Valenti writes in her new
book, “Why Have Kids, “Mommy blogs
organize to take down diaper ads but are largely silent on the lack of paid
maternity leave. They’ll complain about unfair division of labor at home yet
rarely link their husband’s dirty laundry to the larger political system that
tells women they’re better suited for housework.”
The NAMC, this enews and Your Wo)Man
in Washington, at least, don't fall into this category.
aspect of NAMC’s work being making a business case that offering good work/life
options is a good business practice and that it’s important for women (and
almost every employee) who bear the brunt of home and childrearing
responsibilities. We could include a link to www.NAMCWorkplace.org
or a link the pdf of the conference brochure.
November 1, 2012: Parenting Leaves a Lasting
Impression: More data is emerging about the link
between a child's earliest years and long terms effects on the brain and
cognitive development. The Washington Post's "On Parenting"
blog has highlighted recent research showing that exposure to stress, for
example, or language can impact brain size and development. The parents'
educational level has much to do with the degree of cognitive stimulation the
child will experience. With the data mounting, ensuring that
parents have access to the resources they need for economic security and effective
parenting should be a public priority. You can find the posts here and
November 1, 2012: A Different Kind of Gender Gap: Usually when we talk about the the
"gender gap" we mean the inequality between what men and women earn
at work. But there's a whole different meaning every four years in
November - the difference between how men and women vote. It's not a new
phenomenon, and it directly effects how an election turns out. If
forecasts prove correct, the gender gap in the presidential election may reach
an all-time high this year. The New
York Times has a great article with fabulous graphics. And it
supports my theory that gender makes a difference in everything.
October 18, 2012: Breastfeeding in the Marketplace: Breastfeeding is harder than ever now that new moms are sent
home almost as soon as the umbilical cord is cut. Lactation support often
gets shortchanged, and many mothers are back at work well before the first
year, the time span that pediatricians recommend for breastfeeding.
The US has an appalling record in breastfeeding policy, with most working
parents lacking any time of guaranteed leave after the birth of a son or
daughter. No doubt these circumstances contribute to the establishment of
Manhattan's Yummy Mummy, a boutique
for all things nursing mothers need or desire. Patrons can also sign
up for pre-natal yoga classes, interview a "doula", or labor coach, and
pick up tips for latching on. Put it on your list for your next
visit to the Big Apple.
October 18, 2012: The Real Cost of Staying Home with
Your Kids: In much of the US, the price of childcare is astronomical.
Unlike most other countries, public money subsidizes childcare for only the
poorest children, and even then, millions of eligible kids don't get it.
Both low and middle income families face this dilemma. For mothers who
want or need to work, staying home because you can't find affordable care has a
high price too. It's not just the lost income while you're home - it's
the lost earning power once you go back that has the bigger
impact. It will lower your earnings, so you never really catch up.
Whatever pension or retirement savings you accrue will be smaller.
So will your social security benefits when you retire, because they are
calculated on the wages you earned. Does the US's failure to
implement a realistic child care policy contribute to the shrinking of the
middle class? This article from Marketplace
and the related comments, provoke many thoughts.
October 18, 2012: Perils of Being Pregnant at Work: Well into the second decade of the 21st century, and
pregnancy remains an economic drag for women. Articles just like this
one from the New York Times still appear with frustrating frequency in our
national media. Honestly, how long are we supposed to wait for things to
come right? Women will work, and women will get pregnant, and one needn't
make the other impossible - persistent attitudes and out of date policies do
real harm to women and their families.
October 18, 2012: The Missing Majority: Domestic
Policy Through A Woman-Less Lens: Riane Eisler and Kim Otis of the Caring Economy Campaign (of
which NAMC is a member and to whose Advisory Council Your (Wo)Man in
Washington lends her expertise) wrote this op-ed
in the Huffington Post following the first Presidential debate. An
excerpt, referring to our high rates of infant and maternal mortality, the pay
gap, women's poverty rates, and caregiving:
We need to know how our next
president plans to address these pressing issues. Again, this is not only vital
for women but for everyone. Studies show that when women and the care work they do are valued, the return on
investment for the entire nation is enormous, including measurable reductions
in child abuse, domestic violence, poverty, and crime. Our taxes have been used
to fund huge deficits for wars and corporate bailouts, while spending for
"soft," traditionally "women's work" of healthcare,
teaching, and early childhood education has been deemed wasteful -- even though
it is the most cost-effective
nation can make.
Crowley, are you listening??
October 4, 2012: WHY HAVE KIDS?:The answer to that question launches
a discussion about our expectations, motherhood myths, how we see ourselves and
how others see us. Author, mother, blogger, and activist Jessica Valenti
of Feministing.com has a good chin wag on this hour
long broadcast from WAMU.
October 4, 2012: WINNING WOMEN'S VOTES: More women-themed radio, this one
about women's votes in the Presidential campaign. Can we control the
outcome of the election? Do we value the same things, and vote the same
way? When we say it's all about the economy, do women understand that to
include access to contraception and reproductive health? Listen
in while you surf the web.....
October 4, 2012: PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS: How did President Obama's last four
years compares with what he told us he would do during his first Presidential
campaign? There were some hits, some misses, and lots of
incompletes. The American Association of University Women have kept score
in a number of categories, such as education, school bullying, women's health,
work-life balance, civil rights, economic opportunity, among others. Give
it a look here as you get ready to head to the polls next month. http://www.aauwaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Obama-Administration-Overview.pdf
October 4, 2012: 'THE
END OF MEN'? NOT SO FAST!: The idea
that men have reached the peak of their power and are headed down has been
floating around for awhile now. Some writers, like Maureen Dowd (Are
Men Necessary?) and Liza Mundy (The Richer Sex) talk about a power
flip putting women on the ascendant. They see us on the brink of a
different era, when women's higher education and unique traits render them
better positioned to lead the new economy. Hanna Rosin promotes a similar
theory in The End of Men, but I remain unconvinced. After women
have children - and most of us do - the gains we've recently secured
evaporate. Current power structures, access to wealth, and the gendered
nature of care will keep women in a secondary position for quite some
time. Consider Heather Boushey's review of the Rosin book, The
Fat Lady Ain't Sung Yet, and see what you think.
September 20, 2012: Ann Crittenden and the Fertility Paradox: Writing
for The European Institute, author Ann Crittenden, (The Price of
Motherhood, If You've Raised Kids, You Can Manage Anything), founder of
MOTHERS, discusses the relationship between social policy and birth
highest birthrates in the West are in countries like Sweden and France,
which have the highest rates of working women and the most
family-friendly workplaces. The lowest birthrates are in the more
traditional countries like Germany, Italy, Greece, Russia, and Japan,
where women are encouraged to embrace traditional motherhood once they
have a child. Demographers have dubbed this the "fertility paradox."
having children is one of multiple social roles a woman can fill, she
is more likely to do so. If the choice is between children or economic
independence, she's less likely to want motherhood. You'll find the
September 20, 2012: Women by the Numbers: Labor Day prompted the good folks at the National Women's Law Center to pull together some facts about women. Here's a sample:
- The percentage of American families in which women are primary or co-breadwinners: 63.
- The number of federal laws providing paid sick leave, paid family leave, or fair scheduling practices: 0.
average number of hours a woman spends per day caring for and helping
household members, doing housework, fixing meals and managing the
household: nearly 5.
- The amount of money a typical woman loses over the course of a 40-year career due to the wage gap: $431,000.
More data about women and the pay gap, undergrad and graduate degrees, unemployment etc. in the NWLC Labor Day Index.
September 20, 2012: Work/Life Issues In the New York Times:There it was, on the front of the Sunday Business section. Above the fold, even. With a big picture. Finally, work and family is everyone's issue in a major print media publication. From Cali Yost writing in Work + Life Fit, Inc.:
Yes, women and mothers need to flexibly
manage their work and life everyday and throughout their careers (I am a
mother of two and I understand all too well), but as the image of
Gilani and his kids that accompanied this article shows so clearly, so
do men and fathers. And, while not pictured, so do young people going
back to school at night, or someone caring for an adult sibling with
It doesn't take a lot to get us excited - but this was major.
September 20, 2012: Get In On The Debate: Sure, the economy is important - but there's a lot more at stake in these elections. This nifty page from EveryChildMatters.org lets
you tell the debate moderators the questions YOU want put to the
candidates. Is children's health, education, and family income important
to you? How about fighting child abuse, and safe, affordable
afterschool programs? Yours is the voice in the moderator's ear,
prompting the next question. How cool is that?
September 10, 2012:Climbing The Corporate Ladder With Teeth Clamped Around Our Ankles: The
Economist, that super-serious, high-brow periodical, addresses "The
Mommy Track" (oh, how I hate that term!!) on newsstands now:
biggest companies hire women to fill just over half of entry-level
professional jobs. But those women fail to advance proportionally: they
occupy only 28% of senior managerial posts, 14% of seats on executive
committees and just 3% of chief-executive roles, according to McKinsey
& Company, a consultancy. ...Several factors hold women back at
work. Too few study science, engineering, computing or math. Too few
push hard for promotion. Some old-fashioned sexism persists, even in
hip, liberal industries. But the biggest obstacle (at least in most rich countries) is children.
organized you are, it is hard to combine family responsibilities with
the ultra-long working hours and the "anytime, anywhere" culture of
senior corporate jobs. A McKinsey study in 2010 found that both women
and men agreed: it is tough for women to climb the corporate ladder with
teeth clamped around their ankles. Another McKinsey study in 2007
revealed that 54% of the senior women executives surveyed were childless
compared with 29% of the men (and a third were single, nearly double
the proportion of partnerless men).
September 10, 2012: Saddling our Children with Debt, or Punishing Mothers at Work?: "The High Price of Motherhood" by Maxine Udall is
a brilliant essay that just came across my desk, but it is almost 2
years old. You would never suspect it, though, because it deals with
what happens to mothering when the publicly funded safety net is slashed
to tatters to balance the budget, a central issue in this election
year. Everything in the economy depends upon women giving birth,
feeding their children, and educating and raising them to adulthood.
None of this production and output is tracked by our economic indicators
like GDP or employment rates, yet experts acknowledge it is worth
between a whopping 20% and 50% of GDP. Credit IS certainly due, but we are not getting it!! But, that's not all.
there is another possible distortion from the omission of women's
unpaid work from our national accounts. The untallied and unmeasured
often becomes the unvalued. When non-market work is undervalued or
unvalued, the "stuff" that is counted and valued appears that much more
valuable. The result will be to shift national output away from
non-market activities and their product and toward market-based
other words, because the work we do at home is "non-productive labor"
in the monetary sense, it is devalued socially and treated as less
important than paid work. Why encourage it by providing paid time off
for new parents? Why allow employees time off to go to the doctor or to
take a child to the doctor? If paid work is the only thing that
counts, motherhood diminishes in significance, and the irreducible needs
of family caregivers are mere personal problems, nothing more than a
"scheduling conflict". But a problem shared by 70% of all households
with children, where all resident adults are in the paid workforce, is
not a "personal problem". It's a care crisis, and it deserves national
attention. This article is worth a read.
September 10, 2012: Laugh Yourself Silly with How To Be A Woman:
need to reclaim the word 'feminism'. We need the word 'feminism' back
real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29% of American women
would describe themselves as feminist - and only 42% of British women -
I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of
'liberation for women' is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right
not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay?
'Vogue' by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that .... GET ON YOUR NERVES? " - Caitlin Moran, How To Be A Woman
You can listen to this 30 minute radio interview while you file your nails, file your expense report, or file your way out of your cell...
July 20, 2012: Our very own Woman in Washington, Valerie Young is quoted in the Extra Benefits section of yesterday's Women's Enews article " CEO and Pregnant; Yahoo! But Wait a Minute . . .". Check it out.
May 24, 2012: The Myth of Choice: When the options are work outside the home OR care for your family, is that really a choice? Lisa Frack, a mother-activist on Oregon, reveals the illusion we face, and what real choice would look like for the Portland Tribune. Do all women have the same choices? Once we've made our choice, are we all equally happy? No, and no, says Forbes magazine in "Unhappy Homemakers".
May 24, 2012: Public Investment or Public Dependence?: The Obama Campaign has produced a video called "The Life of Julia" connecting federal programs paid for by taxes to specific benefits and different points in an American woma's lifetime, from infancy to old age. The point is to show government's unique role in the promotion of education, health, and self-sufficiency. Opponents criticize the message, saying it depicts a lifetime of dependence on "handouts". Economist Nancy Folbre notes that the fictional Julia produces far more via herself and her children than she takes in public funds in her Economix blog. Who says mothering is "non-productive" work?
July 20, 2012: Our very own Woman in Washington, Valerie Young is quoted in the Extra Benefits section of yesterday's Women's Enews article " CEO and Pregnant; Yahoo! But Wait a Minute . . .". Check it out.
May 24, 2012: There Is No Free Lunch: Sure, breastfeeding is cheaper than formula. Sure, it can benefit both mother and child in lots of ways. But without paid maternity leave, and with only 12 weeks of unpaid leave for some new mothers, breastfeeding can still come with a very hefty pricetag. From the Health blog at the Washington Post, a look at the long-term costs.
May 10, 2012: Courting Women's Votes: The Presidential election inches closer. It's shaping up to be a contest between two views of government, as either the means to a fairer society, or the barrier to prosperity and economic growth. Which view will women support? Most mothers work outside the home, and as primary caregivers, are more affected by our lack of paid leave and paid sick days. Yet historically, women do not all vote the same way or share the same political sentiments. Some mothers stay home from choice. Some stay home because their jobs simply don't allow the time to take a sick child to the doctor. When the candidates are neck and neck, will the need for women's votes encourage them to jump into the political gender gap? NPR surveys the landscape with this radio feature.
May 10, 2012: Family Care Across the Lifespan: You may think that your time as a caregiver will end when your kids grow up. Not so - most of us will spend more time looking after parents, spouses, or elderly relatives than we've spent caring for our children. In addition to the motherhood penalty, a recent MetLife study shows that adult daughters will lose on average an additional $324,000 in pensions, income, and Social Security benefits due to shorter work hours or more years out of the labor force after the age of 50. Our policies are not designed for workers who have family responsibilities. Since most of this work is done by women, we bear a considerable cost. It may be free labor to society, and to the care recipient - but it is certainly not free to the caregiver.
May 10, 2012: Mother's Day Happenings:
- San Francisco will be the site for this weekend's Making Mothers Visible project.
- You'll howl at this YouTube mother-themed parody sung to "Bohemian Rhapsody".
- Ali Smith's meditation on motherhood is called "Momma Love", and part of the forthcoming book How the Mother Half Lives. Be reminded of the life force that flows through you and the power that you are.
April 26, 2012: Women and the 2012 Elections: If women all voted the same way, we would hold the outcome of every election in our hands. Because we don't, the candidates try to attract as many of our votes as possible by specifically appealing to what they think "we" care about. The result is a great deal of one-upsmanship as they try to grab control of both the message and our attention. You don't have time to read every article on the issue, but you'll get the gist from this WaPo piece on the White House's briefing on women and the economy and this Philadelphia Inquirer article about Mitt Romney's appeal to women. Whether the attention will result in more women running for office or getting elected is still unknown. It hasn't helped get the Violence Against Women Act reauthorized this session, and it used to be supported by both parties and passed without controversy. This year, women's physical safety has become a political toy.
April 26, 2012: Ann Romney, Work, and Political Motherhood: The value of family carework was front and center when Ann Romney took some heat for "not working" as a stay at home mother of five. The New York Times' "Motherlode" blog managed, in 7 very short paragraphs, to hit the high points. HuffPo featured a longer piece about policies that would help mothers all across the income spectrum, making this point: "It's time to stop talking about who cares more about mothers and start putting policies in place that value women's work, no matter where it's carried out. That's going to help children derive the benefits of time and attention from their parents, far more than cynical debates that serve little purpose other than to score political points." We'd vote for that.
April 26, 2012: Three Minute interview with Janice Lynch Schuster: Janice Lynch Schuster works with the Center for Elder Care and Advanced Illness and as a writer for Altarum Institute, a health systems research and consulting firm. With Drs. Joanne Lynn and Joan Harrold, she is the co-author of Handbook for Mortals: Guidance for People Facing Serious Illness. We spoke about why mothers need to think about caregiving beyond children.
April 26, 2012: Equal Pay Day: April 17 is Equal Pay Day, representing the additional 3 1/2 months the average woman works to make what the average man earns by the end of the preceding year. Lots of great perspectives this year, including this one about motherhood and equal pay from our friends at A Better Balance.There's a fact sheet about you, whoever you may be, and where pay disparity hits you at this site from the Center for American Progress. The motherhood penalty can be even higher for women who breastfeed, asserted by the researchers profiled in this NYT blog.
March 29, 2012: Mothers in Chains: The state of Florida just passed a bill halting the practice of shackling women in prison when they give birth. Health experts agree that shackling is dangerous to both mother and baby. From a recent Huffington Post blog:
Florida is the first state in the southeastern United States to stop shackling women during labor. For more background on this outrage, you can download a webinar, watch and listen to it on your computer, or look at Mothers Behind Bars, a report from the National Women's Law Center and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights.
There is no need for shackling, as the vast majority of incarcerated women are there for nonviolent crimes. The average person in a women's prison is of reproductive age, is a mother to minor children, and is incarcerated for crimes of poverty and addiction. Many are survivors of abuse. Most are already in high-risk pregnancies. What incarcerated people need are respectful and comprehensive health services. The practice of shackling only furthers victimization and increases risk.
March 29: 2012: Remember 1992, The "Year of the Woman"?: It seems almost cute now, how we thought, twenty years ago, that women had finally made their way into Congress and other elected office and were there to stay. Now the numbers have fallen.
At a mere 16.8 percent of House membership, women’s representation in the United States’ national legislature last year ranked 78th in the world, tied with Turkmenistan, according to statistics compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
Why have women not run in larger numbers? Could the 2012 elections reduce the number of female legislators even further? Washington Post political reporter Karen Tumulty answers these questions in this front page, above the fold feature.
March 29, 2012: Hardwired To Care: The New York Times asks: "Is it really true that women end up shouldering more of the parenting burden simply because they like it more — or at least dislike it less?" Biology, hormones, cultural values and economic demands all contribute to how we parent. They can even influence how truthfully we answer questions concerning how we feel about different caregiving tasks. Tara Parker-Pope mulls it over in this column from the Sunday Times Magazine.
March 15, 2012: Politics, the Absurd and Ridiculous: The musical duo Reformed Whores skewer Rush Limbaugh and others who fill the airwaves with ridiculous stereotypes. You'll be tappin' your toes.
March 15, 2012:
Rumors of Our Success Are Greatly Exaggerated: Some influential voices were predicting that globalization, technology, and other forces would deliver a changed economy where women would have the upper hand. Not so fast, as it turns out, according to NPR and The Nation. Our superior numbers and education haven't even gotten us on a par with men, let alone delivered women an advantage. "But anyone who declares that women have "won" the new economy is premature at best. Women may be over-represented in growing sectors, but those jobs pay poorly, offer few benefits, come with grudging work and provide little opportunity for advancement. The edge on wages experienced by young women evaporates as they progress in their careers. When women do get to middle management, they're paid less than men and they struggle to advance much further up the ladder. And women with children are left far behind."
March 15, 2012: Ladies' Smarts & Ladies' Parts: With access to women's health care still much in the news, let's take a moment to acknowledge the link between birth control and women's economic status. The Center for American Progress released a series of reports on women last week, including this one about progress in the US, which states in part:
"Progress for women in the United States is due, in large part, to their access to reproductive health care. Ninety-nine percent of sexually active women in the United States have used birth control, and 62 percent are using it at any given time. The U.S. abortion rate is lower than in countries where abortion is illegal, and the death rate from abortion, at 0.6 deaths per 100,000 procedures, is virtually zero. While women in the poorest countries have an average of 4.5 children in their lifetime, the typical U.S. woman has only two."
March 15, 2012: Putting Pen to Paper...: or fingers to keyboard. Do you have a “momoir” rattling around in your brain? Need to get something off your chest? Want to get your insights out into the wide world? The Journal of the Motherhood Initiative wants to hear from you! SECOND CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: The editorial board is seeking submissions for Vol. 3.2 of the Journal of the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement (JMI) to be published in fall/winter 2012. The journal will explore the topic of Motherhood Activism, Advocacy and Agency from a variety of perspectives and disciplines. We welcome submissions from scholars, students, activists, government agencies and workers, artists, mothers, and others who work or research in this area. Cross-cultural, historical and comparative work is encouraged. We also welcome creative reflections such as poetry, short stories, and artwork on the subject. Read more here.
March 1, 2012: Motherhood Over Marriage:For the first time, most women under 30 giving birth are single. Historically, children born outside of marriage have greater rates of poverty and lower rates of educational achievement. But the stigma of unmarried births is fading, women are half the labor force, and men have lost their superior standing in earning academic degrees. The impact on motherhood is sure to be profound, but it won't be known for several decades. What's fascinating now is that women seem to prefer committing to their children more than committing to a man.
March 1, 2012: Wage Gaps - Whose Is Bigger?: Most of the time, the wage gap in the news is the one between men and women. The bigger split, though, is between women, specifically those with children and those without. The latest data suggests that mothers' wages trail those of other women by as much as 14%, controlling for all other factors. Researchers say most if not all is due to discriminatory practices ranging from open and outright to subtle and stealthy. You can read this report from The Grindstone or listen to this 17 minute panel discussion from NPR. And be sure to catch this 3 minute video about the motherhood penalty.
March 1, 2012:
Birth Control Still in the News: The Catholic Church is rejecting the Administration's contraception compromise, requiring insurers to provide coverage for birth control without co-pays to employees of religiously operated schools and hospitals. The fact that there's a debate at all stems not from religious freedom nor public health concerns, but the weird linking of health care to employment, as explained in this piece from the Washington Post. Other critics say the cost of controlling fertility is insignificant, and shifting some or all of the cost back to women would remove the conscience objection from the religious employer. Here's a fact sheet from the Center for America Progress showing all the costs, even for procedures such as sterilization which may be required if pregnancy is perilous for the mother. Finally, it's worth remembering that access to birth control has been considered essential for women's health and welfare for decades, and so private that President Dwight D. Eisenhower emphatically declared, in 1959, that it was none of government's business.
February 14, 2012: Dear Boss: I'm Having a Baby: Have you ever wondered what to say, or what not to say, when announcing your "blessed event" at work? Cali Yost makes is simple on her Work + Life Fit blog.
February 14, 2012:
State Database for Laws about Mothers at Work: How to find out what the law is in your state about paid sick days, breastfeeding at work, maternity leave, or temporary disability insurance? You can check out this nifty site at the National Partnership for Women & Families and see what, if anything, is available. Psst - New Jersey and California are the best in the country!
February 14, 2012: Who's No. 1? You, of course!: More data on the role mothers or other primary caregivers play in their child's brain development. Not only is nurture and positive interaction good for babies' brains, it actually changes the brain's physical structure. Live Science covers the story.
January 31, 2012: Before 2011 Slips Away: Our friends at the Institute for Women's Policy Research put a year's worth of study into these 5 most important findings of 2011. Here is a brief one-pager with more details on these fast facts.
During the recovery, men gained more jobs overall than women.
Many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and some cannot afford to put food on the table.
Americans strongly support Social Security and have grown increasingly reliant on the program in the last decade.
The number of on-campus child care centers has declined and presently can only meet five percent of the child care needs of student parents.
Paid sick days would reduce emergency department visits–saving $1 billion in health care costs.
January 31, 2012: Men, Women, Marriage & Work - Untangling the Knot: Women entered the workforce in huge numbers over the past 50 years. This one fact has fundamentally changed marriage, who does what at home, how we care for our children, and what motherhood means today. It has changed men's lives too. Parenting expectations put pressure on both moms and dads. Is the stress we have now inevitable? Can we have a range of options to combine work and family that will make things easier? Historian Stephanie Coontz says yes in this 20 minute radio interview you can listen to on your computer.
January 31, 2012: Younger Adults Rank Parenthood More Important than Marriage: How old you are reflects how you are likely to view the relationship between tying the knot and becoming a parent. The millenial generation, those between 18 and 29, put a higher priority on having a child over getting married by a hefty 22% margin. The over 30 crowd are more likely to believe that children need both a mother and a father in the home, and that single parents or cohabiting couples are "bad for society". The change in priorities will impact public policies and be reflected, over time, in new social structures. Is this a good thing, or further evidence of a national crisis? Here are the results of the Pew Research study.
December 8, 2011: The Price of Perpetuating the Species:
The Economist magazine bills itself as an "authoritative weekly ...on international politics and business news and opinion." They've finally turned their attention to how the US and other countries approach child care, workflex, and what real family friendly laws might look like. Maybe one day this will be written about our country: "But working women’s lives are made easier by employers’ enlightened attitudes, excellent public child-care provision and generous family leave." Read "Baby Blues, A Juggler's Guide to Having It All".
December 8, 2011: Multitasking Mothers and Dutiful Dads: Many moms and dads are sharing both the paid and unpaid work of family life. Why are mothers still reporting more stress and worry, if dads are moving to close the time gap? Because the mothers do more multitasking. Thus the paradox of more involved fathers, but not happier mothers, according to a study covered by the Los Angeles Times. If you want to listen to a radio feature on the report while you multitask and make dinner, fold laundry, or balance the checkbook, NPR did a story too.
December 8, 2011: Geena Davis on the Gender Gap: If women are now getting more than half the diplomas, why are so few of them making it to the top in business? Because of gender discrimination, here called "the mind-set of senior executives" by one panelist at this
Wall Street Journal discussion. When women are promoted based on performance, and men promoted based on potential, both the company and mothers end up losing. Geena Davis finds an origin for this different treatment in G-rated movies, which portray mostly male heroes and disempowered female characters.
December 8, 2011: What You Don't Know Could Cost You!: Calling all mothers in California, Washington, and New York - do you know that your state offers paid family leave? Older women with full-time professional jobs and college degrees by the time they have children may well work for an employer who offers it. High school graduates and younger mothers may not even know if it is available to them, and the ones who need it most are the least likely to be aware. The Ms.Blog has a pithy post setting out where you can get paid leave, where you can't, and why.
November 17, 2011: Motherhood & Politics:Did you become more or less liberal or conservative when you became a mother? Studies suggest parenthood can push you to the right on issues like legalizing marijuana, and/or push you to the left on child nutrition or health insurance policy. Motherhood can make your stake in the future emerge more distinctly, and - we hope - prompt you to speak out and speak up to your friends, families, and communities. This 21 minute radio discussion from WNYC will "speak" to you, in more ways than one.
November 17, 2011: Up All Night:Motherhood can take a toll on a girl, alright. Turns out the waiting rooms of sleep clinics are filled mostly by women, who often start a lifetime of troubled nights when pregnant. Twice as many women, over 15 million, take prescription meds to get some shut-eye. What effect does this have on our quality of life? The New York Times attempts an answer. The article prompted many interesting responses from sleepy mothers. The most passionate was penned by maternal economics expert Joan Williams, accusing the Times of a "cutesy" treatment of a serious gender issue in her scathing HuffPo Opinion piece.
November 17, 2011: Mother to Mother, or We're All On The Same Side: These two items are best read together, as they both discuss mothers' tendency to judge each other harshly, but judge themselves hardest of all. From the mothers who wrote Good Enough is the New Perfect, a chat about competitive mothering with a psychologist. And from an editor at www.babble.com, this shot at the alleged "mommy wars" between stay at home, work at home, and work outside the home moms. "No one choice is more “right” or honorable than the next. They’re all flippin’ hard and all worthy of recognition." Right on, sister! The full post is here.
November 17, 2011: Depreciating Women's Carework: We know as mothers that our culture and our country give family carework very short shrift indeed. Read this post about how federal policy leaves elder care provided by family members outside the minimal protections it offers. Everything economist Nancy Folbre says here applies equally to those, paid and unpaid, who care for children, their own or somebody else's. "Current and future family caregivers should favor better federal protections for paid home care workers out of respect for the value and dignity of caregiving itself."
November 1, 2011:
What's Occupy Wall Street All About, Anyway?:The Occupy Wall Street movement got a lift last week with the release of data showing that income inequality was very real and no short-term blip. For most of the 20th century, the American middle class was growing. Starting in the late 1970's, however, the growth trend shifted, with most gains occurring only at the very highest income levels. Since 1979, the top 1% of earners have seen their paychecks grow by an astonishing 275%. The bottom fifth of the population only had an 18% increase. and the middle 3/5 had an income gain of 40% during this same time. The tax system, and public programs like Social Security and Medicaid used to reapportion some of that money, but now do relatively less to prevent these great disparities. As a result of huge executive bonuses, the growing financial services industry, and the concentration of capital gains at higher income levels, the New York Times says, "... the after-tax income of the most affluent fifth exceeded the income of the other four-fifths of the population." That's what's got so many people in the street all over the world.
November 1, 2011: Your Direct Line to the White House: Technology has opened doors like never before. Now the White House is online with an interactive feature that lets you put your issues front and center. Want to elevate the value of family carework, support paid sick days, or push for part-time worker protections? Start a petition and get your friends to virtually sign it right here at We The People
November 1, 2011: Early Education Encourages Equality: Your (Wo)Man in Washington recently discussed the state of early education in America and its implications for mothers' economic security. Apparently columnist Nick Kristof also had what happens to kids from birth to age five on the brain. That is the window of greatest opportunity for human development, and the die is cast, for individuals and societies, before formal schooling even begins. Mr. Kristof writes "... the question isn’t whether we can afford early childhood education, but whether we can afford not to provide it. We can pay for prisons or we can pay, less, for early childhood education to help build a fairer and more equitable nation." Narrowing income inequality, it turns out, has something to do with 1, 2, 3, and A, B, C. Here's a link to his column.
November 1, 2011: Women & Money on the Airwaves: Sometimes the media actually does acknowledge a gender difference - here's a recent radio spot on why women need to manage their own money and plan for their own future and the US News & World Report article that prompted it.
October 19, 2011: Help For New Mothers: Does anybody have a seamless transition into motherhood? Lots of women find their way to a "new normal" at a Mothers Center. This radio report features mothers in a similar program as they struggle with real motherhood and real babies, who don't always behave as depicted in magazines and advertising. You can either read the story or listen on your computer.
October 19, 2011: Gen X Women 'Opt Out' of Motherhood: It's official - about 43% of American women between 33 and 46 do not have children. Why? One commentator's theory: "Attribute it to more opportunities in the workforce, relaxing social pressure, advances in contraception or watching women such as myself slip into an increasingly disheveled state of hysteria for years after childbirth and vowing not to follow suit." In fact, there's a direct link between the state of the economy and the national birthrate. The states and ethnicites hardest hit are the ones with the sharpest drop in fertility. The news prompted this Washington Post feature and a radio story from NPR.
October 19, 2011: Gender Discrimination and The Law: Women have made up about half of law school graduates since 1993. But rather that reaching parity in the profession, they are no more than a third of attorneys in practice, a quarter of all state judges, and just over one fifth of federal judges. What happens to the rest of them? Is there something about the law that effectively pushes out an unusually high number of women? Here's a clue: "Women with children are having the hardest time staying in the profession. They are half as likely to be hired, a recent Cornell study found, when compared with childless women with similar qualifications." The complete New York Times editorial is here.
Sep 15, 2011: "Open Season on Mothers": A recent legal opinion in an anti-discrimination case from New York has mothers and work/family advocates fuming. Mothers employed by Bloomberg, the financial news corporation, alleged they were replaced by less qualified employers while on maternity leave, paid less after returning from maternity leave, and excluded from management meetings. Judge Loretta Preska dismissed the claim early on in the pre-trial stage, in spite of numerous offensive and discriminatory statements and actions. Read more in these articles: The Huffington Post, Bloomberg Case: Open Season to Discriminate Against Mothers?; Cognitive Bias and the Motherhood Penalty; Getting a Job. Is There a Motherhood Penalty?; A Better Balance Analysis; WSJ Bloomberg Case: Tough Luck for Working Moms; The Hill - 'There's no such thing as work-life balance'
Sep 15, 2011: Why Those First Years - and Mothers - Are So Important: We already know what makes human beings successful - lots of the right kinds of interactions in the first few years. The data has been piling up for some time now, and experts in many fields are reaching the same conclusion - humans learn essential "soft skills" most easily while the brain is still developing. When young children have the chance to work together, negotiate, talk, handle frustration, and resolve conflict, they benefit in adulthood. Read a report on NPR and a summary on Women's Policy Inc.
Sep 15, 2011: The LA Times Declares "Staying Home Is Hard!": They could have just asked us - we woulda told 'em! But really, being a mother is hard, no matter how you approach it. We know there is simply no one "right way", and whatever your situation now, it will likely change in five, ten, or fifteen years. No matter your solution at the moment, this probably applies to you - "For women, the message is 'be gentle with yourself...Accept that if the balance between work and family feels hard, it's because it is. It's not because you're not successful." Hear, hear!! Click here for the full article.
Sep 15, 2011: The Opt Out Myth Was A Lie, But It's Still Holding Women Back: When we cast mothers' experiences of the worklife mismatch in the language of "my choice" or "opting out", we may be missing other external forces at work. Perhaps it's more comfortable to think we are in charge and controlling our fate. But is that really the case? The Glass Hammer reports on academic research concluding that "our culture of individualism" is actually working against women with children. "According to the research, women who described their career breaks as the result of personal choice were less likely to identify examples of discrimination and structural barriers to advancement. Choice-focused women were blind to societal and environmental disadvantages that may have influenced their career trajectory." The Huffington Post looks at the effect of this "choice rhetoric" here.
Aug 1, 2011: NC Court Acknowledges Critical Window for Children's Development: A recent court decision from North Carolina has confirmed what scientists have long known - what happens in the very first years profoundly influences a child's life. Early education experts say that this is "the first time that a court has recognized what decades of scientific research have shown-that the foundation for learning (whether strong or weak) is built long before a child starts kindergarten.
Aug 1, 2011: Is Birth Control Basic Preventive Health Care for Women?: And should women have to pay "out of pocket" co-pays and deductibles for it even when they have health insurance? Opinions swirl about the new Institute of Medicine recommendation that contraception costs be fully covered under the new health care reform package. Expenses arising from conditions particular to women (i.e. pregnancy, childbirth, menopause) are still often seen as "extras", a bizarre characterization for anything potentially experienced by over half the population, and with consequences for the whole of society. [...] Here's a NY Times opinion piece and a thoughtful hour-long radio discussion moderated by Diane Rehm to lay it out for you.
Aug 1, 2011: Women With Children Outta Time: Most people say they have enough time to do everything in their lives that needs to be done. But nearly a third say they don't. Who are they? Mothers and others with children at home. Surprisingly the more education and income you have, the more time-stressed you are likely to feel. From a new Gallup poll, "...the results reveal that, while a majority of working Americans report having enough time to do what they need to do, a significant proportion believe they cannot catch up with their daily obligations and needs.
Aug 1, 2011: Why Maternity Leave Is So Important: Women need time to make the changes necessary to care for a new child. They will be happier and healthier if they get it - and so will their children. This doesn't mean they will permanently abandon paid work, nor that their children need them to. "After 4.5 years, many of the mothers had transitioned back into the workplace, learning to balance competing demands on their time between family and work. The transition isn't easy, but the key seems to be having enough time to settle into a new life as both parent and professional.
Aug 1, 2011: Returning Parents Are Terrific Workers: 'Nuf said. Until the US comes up with a logical, comprehensive policy shift that acknowledges workers and caregivers are one and the same, women will quit when children arrive, then have to muscle their way back in, against counter-productive and short-sighted workplace attitudes. An Op-Ed from the Boston Globe .
June 10, 2011: More Single Father Households: It's always a good time to talk about the role of fathers in the work/family challenges, but especially with Father's Day on the horizon. While the workplace remains structured for a person with no outside obligations, fathers do more hands on parenting than their fathers did. Many say women won't see doors fully opening at work until dads up the ante on the caregiving side, which is happening at a glacial pace. Some changes are happening faster though - mothers are less likely to win sole custody of children in divorce disputes, and single parent families are more frequently headed by fathers, and more socially accepted.
June 10, 2011: New baby? No Loan!: Federal regulators have gone after a mortgage company accused of cancelling contracts of homebuyers if they were women and on maternity leave. On the assumption that paid maternity leave amounts to "short-term or temporary disability income", the mortgagor claimed it could not be considered as earned income for purposes of a home loan.
June 10, 2011: Flexible Work Arrangements NOT Limited to Mothers : For work/family scholars, big box retailer Best Buy has been an industry leader with its "results only work environment", (ROWE) where performance depends on results achieved, not the number of hours worked. Researchers have found that what was thought to be uniquely appealing to mothers of young children is implemented by and yields benefits to the entire workforce, and the bottom line.
May 18, 2011: Motherhood: The Next Generation: What do Gen Y women expect their lives to be like? One researcher says equal parts work and family, with a rejection of high-octane jobs and all-consuming work. It's tempting to think that their expectations will influence workplace culture, and lead to a more equitable sharing within the home of the income-generating work and the unpaid, household and family care work. Didn't many of us expect the same, only to hit the "maternal wall" and persistent sexism decades after the women's liberation movement? Will it be different for them?
May 18, 2011: Where the Boys Are...or the Man of the House: Work/life expert and blogger Cali Yost used the preceding item as a jumping off point for this piece about the role of men in the conversation of workplace flexibility and the role they want to play in their children's lives.
May 18, 2011: Social Security - A Mystery No More: Yes, you can... understand Social Security. There has never been a more effective federal program. It shields millions of seniors, mostly women, from poverty, and it protects families after the death or disability of a parent. Now that it is in the headlights of the deficit hawks in Congress, you need to know how your future is at stake. Will it soon be "broke"? No. Does it need a tune up? Yes. Here's a nifty power point from two of the foremost experts in the country, Virginia Reno and Elisa Walker.
May 18, 2011: Hunger Is A (Single) Mother's Issue: Imagine working a full-time job, raising your kids alone, trying to keep it all together day after day, and not being able to feed your children. Even with hunger or "food insecurity" as it's called in public policy circles, gender makes a difference. Female headed households are the most likely to come up short at the supermarket. Well over a third of single mother households, 36.6%, have at least one member cutting back on meals, skipping meals altogether, or going without food for a whole day. In 2009, over 50 million people in the US experienced hunger, including over 9 million children, 12% of all children in the US.
May 18, 2011:Looking for a Few Good (Wo)Men ... Who Read:There are more books about mothers, mothering, women, and caregiving than we can stay on top of around here. If you like to read, think about these issues and chew 'em over with other mothers, consider becoming our MOTHERS Bookshelf Editor. We'd be looking for regular summaries, short author interviews, discussions, book group type questions-and-answers to appear right here in the MOTHERS Enews. No hard deadlines, no stress, just a willingness and interest required. Send an email to Valerie at
May 5, 2011: Mothers In Charge: Some women find the best way to manage work and family is to be their own boss. We all have only 24 hours in a day, but it can make a huge difference if you are the one deciding precisely how those hours will be spent. One mompreneur says, "Having children and being a mom makes me a better and stronger person.” And a savvy business owner, too.
May 5, 2011: "Mother" as a Verb: Freelance photographer Ali Smith studies mother love in action in a series of shots for her project "Momma Love; How the Mother Half Lives". You'll be inspired by the variety of the maternal experience beautifully depicted at http://momfilter.com/talk/editors-letter-ali-smith. We love, protect, nurture, grow, teach, challenge and comfort our children, in a million different ways every day. What a diverse group we mothers are!
May 5, 2011: Mothering Against the Odds: Were you raised by a single parent? One quarter of all US children are now, and that's more than any other industrialized country in the world. The vast majority of single parents are women. In some ways, it's harder here than anywhere else. As the Associated Press points out in this recent article, "The U.S. ... lacks policies to help support families, including childcare at work and national paid maternity leave, which are commonplace in other countries." We also have higher rates of child poverty, even though many single mothers work. Low wage jobs, coupled with a lack of policies supporting children and families, mean the basics needs for food, shelter, and health care aren't met for millions. But make no mistake, we make single mothering an uphill climb. It could be otherwise. As noted in the AP piece, "it isn't being a single parent in itself that raises difficulties. 'Single moms do a brilliant and amazing job raising their children,' said Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. 'It is also true that single moms in this country are systemically underpaid, and systematically under-resourced and systemically unrespected. It's not the fact they are single moms that makes things difficult.'"
May 5, 2011: Mothers As Advocates: Every single day, in your very own home, you make difficult decisions, allocate resources, quell fears, and persuade cranky people to your way of thinking. Congratulations, Mom - you have all the skills of an effective advocate! This toolkit from "Zero to Three", the national nonprofit promoting children's health and development, knows that the road to children's well-being leads straight to informed mothers who will speak out. Their online interactive worksheets direct and organize your thinking and presto - you are a voice for change.
April 18, 2011: A Big Job for a "Little Lady": Member of Congress Debbie Wasserman Schultz was named Chair of the Democratic National Committee by President Obama. She's had a most distinguished political career and been in Congress since 2005. Now she is running for re-election, and has had breast cancer, 7 surgeries, a double mastectomy, and 3 children (including one set of twins). She claims never to be without a crayon in her purse. Her appointment as DNC Chair, responsible for coordinating the party's daily activities, sparked comment from other lawmakers that she might be in over her head. These remarks, in turn, lead to accusations of sexism, which led to stout defenses and denials. It was a good ol' Washington brouhaha with lots of outrage and finger pointing. Do you believe the suggestions of "strain" would still have been made if the President had named a man? Read these three articles on Wasserman's ability from : http://jezebel.com/#!5789878/congressman-questions-debbie-wasserman-schultzs-ability-to-handle-new-job
April 18, 2011: Motherhood and the Government Shutdown Threat: Finalizing the federal 2011 budget hinged, for awhile, on the continued funding of Planned Parenthood's routine medical and family planning services. Ultimately, the non-profit was left alone, but a condition of the agreement to keep the federal government up and running was that the District of Columbia could not use its own funds to cover the costs of abortion for poor women. DC, you will remember, has no vote in Congress, no Senators or members of the US House, yet it pays its fair share of federal taxes. To be restricted by Congress on its own decisions for its own residents with its own money was a bitter pill for many to swallow. Notwithstanding the fact that abortion still is perfectly legal as long as no federal money is used, as a practical matter, women in the District may find it out of reach. Motherhood is more of a political football than ever, and likely to stay in play for quite a while, with 2012 budget bills looming. This link will take you to a one hour radio discussion of all sides of the issue.
April 18, 2011: NAMC Applauds Reid Speech: Advocating for mothers' rights is what we do, and we had to voice our agreement with Senator Harry Reid's remarks during the budget debate. Refusing to surrender federal funding for women's health care services, he expressed his outrage, which we shared. Women's health care policy is far too important to be used as a pawn in a political showdown. Here's a copy of the letter sent by NAMC Executive Director, Linda Lisi Juergens.
April 18, 2011: As a Mother, Do You Matter?: Does parenting really mold the development of our children, or does our influence pale in the face of media, technology, peers, and all the other forces are children are exposed to? Jane Waldfogel (LOVE her!) a Columbia University professor and expert in public policy and family well-being, has done in-depth research and has good news. As mothers, we are in a position to make a huge difference in the lives of our children.
April 5, 2011: And while we're on the subject of FRD: The experts in family caregiver discrimination at the Center for WorkLife Law report that low wage workers have a lot to lose in an unfair workplace. Looking after children or older relatives can put a single mother on a cycle of winning and losing entry-level jobs, never earning above minimum wage or establishing financial security. "Among the problems low-wage workers face is that their jobs often come with too few hours, leading them to juggle multiple jobs. Those jobs can come with unpredictable or inflexible schedules. Not only that, low-income families are less likely to have access to paid sick days or unpaid family or medical leave, the report concludes. Private employers are not required to provide sick days or vacations, except in San Francisco, Milwaukee and Washington." The National Law Journal article about the report can be found here.
April 5, 2011: FDA Questions Infant Formula Claims: Breastfeeding has a lot to recommend it, not the least of which is its free cost. Formula companies want to compete, and may be
overstating their case when they say their product is as nutritionally valuable as breastmilk. The Food and Drug Administration is taking notice, and will soon start evaluating the veracity of formula labels and mothers' understanding of them. Women's Enews report is here.
April 5, 2011: Parental Joy A Myth? Not So!:The "High Cost of Parenting" item in our last MOTHERS Enews prompted feedback from readers in North Carolina and Kentucky. Researchers claim that parents exaggerate the joy they derive from their children to offset price of raising and schooling them. "Utter hogwash!" wrote Chelia. "The researchers never take into account feelings of pride and attachment that many parents feel for their children. They are only looking at a relationship from an economic standpoint. Are we really that shallow? How many parents would give EVERYTHING up for their children? These researchers set out to prove their point. And they did." Another mother let us know that maternal satisfaction is no myth, and needs no exaggeration, inspiring her to write a whole post on her own blog. "I believe, just as I would guess most all parents do, that giving birth to and nurturing this fragile human life - is not only a worthwhile task - but is the most important job and privileged responsibility to which we will ever commit ourselves. .... through raising children we determine the future of America." You can find Ginger Garner's complete thoughts on the topic here.
April 5, 2011: Mothers, In Memoriam: Sara Ruddick has passed away. She was a pioneer in the study of motherhood and development of the field of maternal scholarship. Here's an excerpt from her obituary in the New York Times: Ms. Ruddick, a professor of philosophy and women’s studies for nearly 40 years at the New School for Social Research, developed an approach to child-rearing that shifted the focus away from motherhood as a social institution or biological imperative and toward the day-to-day activities of raising and educating a child. This work, she argued, shaped the parent as much as the child, giving rise to specific cognitive capacities and values — qualities of intellect and soul. Doing shapes thinking, in other words. Earning a Ph.D. from Harvard in the early 1960's, when few women did, she insisted that motherhood need not be a gender-specific activity performed only by women. The complete obituary is here.
April 5, 2011: March 24, 2011: I'm Not Your "Mommy", Mister!: Our public conversation frequently includes reference to the "mommy wars" or "mommy track" or the really saccharine-sounding "mommy blogs". Does this set your teeth on edge? It's always bothered me, and the mothers of MOTHERS said for years that using the term “mommy” is flatly inappropriate, as it is a familial term that sounds condescending. Frankly, the only people in my life who are entitled to use this term live in my house and are 11 and 15 years old. From a public policy perspective, work/family initiatives are always gender neutral and certainly not limited to those caring for children. Today's workforce is full of people looking after their parents, partners, or others, and often themselves, as older workers mean more chronic health conditions, and this is what drives efforts like paid family medical leave and the paid sick days bill. The "mommy-" qualifier is a media creature designed to grossly oversimplify what is really a nuanced and multi-faceted situation, as fewer and fewer households consist of a husband, wife and children. The Wall Street Journal blog teases out the issue here. Slate.com offers its reaction to the WSJ post here.
April 5, 2011: March 24, 2011: Why Women Are Worse Off the World Over: Women are, generally, poorer than men because less of the work they do is paid work, as they spend several hours each day on household chores and child care. On top of that, working women earn less than working men. The discrepancy is greatest in such countries as Mexico, Turkey, and India, and smallest but still quite significant in Sweden, Norway, and Finland. The US places somewhere in the middle, with unpaid work gender parity greater than that found in Austria, New Zealand and Poland, but less than that found in Canada or Belgium.
March 24, 2011: The "High Cost of Parenting": Two psychologists suggest that we exaggerate the joy and delight we find in our children to offset the great expense of raising and educating them.
"Eibach and Mock put their findings into a historical perspective: In an earlier time, kids actually had economic value; they worked on farms or brought home paychecks, and they didn’t cost that much. Not coincidentally, emotional relationships between parents and children were less affectionate back then. As the value of children has diminished, and the costs have escalated, the belief that parenthood is emotionally rewarding has gained currency. In that sense, the myth of parental joy is a modern psychological phenomenon." Parental joy a myth? Do you buy it?
March 24, 2011: Fabulous Child Care at an Unlikely Source: What organization has figured out how to offer its personnel access to high-quality childcare with well-paid providers, practical paid family leave, and universal health care? The US military, of course. Why does it work in that context, but not in the civilian world? Social scientist Mindy Fried offers up her analysis here from Mindy's Muses.
March 24, 2011: We Are Not Alone...: Although England offers nationally guaranteed paid parental leave program, unlike the US, a similar debate rages over whether women's failure to make it to the top is due to gender discrimination or the obligations and expectations of motherhood. (Or, wait a minute - could that possibly be the same thing?) Here's a recent salvo, and the argument could be made "across the pond", as they say.
March 11, 2011: The 100th anniversary of International Women's Day arrived on March 8, and global indicators reveal a grim reality. Women perform 2/3 of the world's work, produce half of the world's food, yet earn only 10% of its income, and own 1% of all property. On the other hand, Newsweek put a woman, Hillary Clinton, on its cover to draw attention to her belief that peaceful and productive societies require the empowerment of women and girls. Melanne Verveer, US Ambassador for Global Women's Issues, echoed that sentiment in this brief video message, saying "...if democracy is to prosper, it cannot do so without the participation of women..."
The US could use some of that participation its own self right about now, where only 16% of the US House and Senate are women.
March 11, 2011: If James Bond Was a Woman, how different would 007's life be? Check out this funny but informative International Women's Day video.
March 11, 2011: Washington's Budget Battles wage on. The most likely places to be cut will be funding for children and women, who don't contribute to political campaigns or hire lobbyests. Many social scientists and economists think this is exactly the wrong way to go, because for every public dollar invested in early childhood, there's a $3 rate of return in reduced crime, greater employability, higher income, and other positive indicators. Here's a 2 minute video showing how it works, and links to others explaining how economic success depends on investing beyond the market and into human potential.
March 11, 2011: The "Reflections of Motherhood" video asks what would you tell yourself if you could go back to the day before your child was born?
March 11, 2011: "Women In America", the most comprehensive federal report on the status of US women in 40 years was released last week, with great fanfare. You can skip the 100 page report and just go for highlights in this pithy HuffPo article. No video here, but it is short!
And to leave you laughing, watch the ever-popular Joy of Motherhood comedy song - you may have seen it before, but the litany of motherisms to the tune of the William Tell overture is simply too good to pass up.
February 24, 2011:Equality Now, Equality Later....or Much, Much Later? : In the United States, we patiently wait for women to make their way to equitable representation in business, government, academia, etc. as if it's a natural process which will occur all by itself. But is it? At this rate, it will take a gazillion years to even hit the 30% mark of female representation in policy-making positions where detectable change occurs. Other countries refuse to wait, and pass laws establishing quotas. There are plenty of qualified women available, it turns out, they just aren't getting where they need to be on their own. What sort of political culture does it take to legislate gender equity?
February 24, 2011: Is Gender Discrimination a "Lifestyle Choices"?:Some believe that women no longer need any help to achieve equality in the workplace. If there is a pay disparity, they say, it is the result of differences in ability, or experience, or education. We also hear the argument that women chose lower paying jobs because they value time with their children, or fewer hours, or simply make "different choices" than men do. Nonetheless, there's ample support for the view that women continue to experience wage discrimination, with women earning less for the same work, and industries with a predominantly female workforce paying lower wages. Relying on US Census Bureau data, and data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, our colleagues at Legal Momentum write: On average, the median pay in jobs dominated by men are higher than in those dominated by women, and for jobs held by both men and women, median pay for men almost always exceeds that for women. It's a short hop, skip and jump from gender-based pay disparity to the paltry social value placed on family carework, also primarily performed by women. Will our daughters face the inescapable cost of being female, too? The full report is here:
February 24, 2011: Pregnant at Work - Not OK in Oklahoma: It's illegal to discriminate against a woman who is pregnant or becomes pregnant throughout the course of her employment. But does it happen? Well, yes.
February 24, 2011: Motherhood, the Ivory Ceiling? : The American myth of the self-made (wo)man is something we all want desperately to believe in. The formula for success is to work hard, play by the rules, and your goal will be achieved. The American dream is right up there with "you can be whatever you want if you work hard enough", "follow your dreams", and so on. You'd think that anyone earning a Ph.D. in the sciences, man or woman, had certainly proven a penchant for hard work and more than satisfactory hoop jumping. But if that doctorate belongs to a woman, and a mother, tenure will still elude her more than her male counterpart by a 30% margin. Researchers at UC-Berkley connect the dots between reaching the peak of the ivory tower and running the home place: The scientists explain that these numbers are related to the absence of paid maternity leave in most research universities. Additionally, there are massive time demands on faculty, which are particularly challenging for women, who must combine their work with caregiving, housework, etc. How can we train the best scientists, produce the best research, and face the coming global challenges, if the typical academic path to success doesn't account for the birth and child rearing that half our talent pool will be doing?
February 15, 2011: Child Care and Maternal Economics: Unlike most other civilized countries, child care is largely left out of our public policy discussions. There's scant federal money used, and children in poverty simply make do very often with less than adequate care. Middle class families may have more options, but the cost is staggering, about the equivalent of the monthly rent or mortgage payment. Now, Congress wants to cut even the minimal public funding available, and families on an economic razor's edge will lose what little help they do have. Clearly, this will affect mothers more than fathers. Women do far more care work in the US than men, and routinely take jobs with lower pay but greater flexibility to make it work. So, does this aspect of budget-tightening amount to gender discrimination?
February 15, 2011: First Them, Now Us: Initially called the "mancession", 3 years of economic hardship later it's women who are losing jobs at a greater rate, and are not being hired back, as men increasingly are. Fabulous feminist economist Heather Boushey explains way in 5 short paragraphs!
February 15, 2011: Can Economics Explain the Politics of Housework?: Could a Nobel laureate economics professor offer practical solutions to resentment arising from who does what at home? Author Paula Szuchman answers the question: Indeed, he could. He’s written a ton on the economics of the family and thinks about it in his own marriage. It’s why his wife does more of the housework, he said. Since his time, on a monetary scale, is more valuable than hers, he spends more of it working in his office and less in the kitchen. Lucky him. She's written Spousonomics: Using Economics to Master Love, Marriage, and Dirty Dishes with Jenny Anderson, and suggests we focus on incentives, specialization, and loss aversion. A one-pager about her researcher is here. (Maybe monetary value is the only basis that ought to be considered?)
February 15, 2011: Future Planning, Not Future Shock: We know, we know - you are all things to all people, and can't even go to the bathroom by yourself. One day, though, your children and you will be using the loo solo and in private. At that point, it's time to think about your next act. The only person you can count on to plan your support in later life is you. Here's a booklet from the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement to make sure you do just that.
January 27, 2011: Tatas on the Brain: Whether you breastfed your own babies or not, you know a lot about lactation already. But you might not know that breastfeeding keeps employers' business costs down because mothers miss less work when babies are healthier, as the Wall Street Journal's Marketwatch recently reported. The mother's productivity at work is enhanced, she's less likely to quit, and the employer has lower turnover. You might also be surprised to hear that the new healthcare reform law (which the majority Republican House of Representatives voted to repeal last week) requires some employers to provide regular break times and suitable environments (i.e. not a bathroom) for expressing breast milk. Breastfeeding mothers employed within the executive branch of the federal government can exercise this policy for the first year of their baby's life, according to the Washington Post. As that weren't enough lactation in the news, the US Surgeon General made a splash last week with her "Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding", citing the health benefits for both mothers and babies. She even encouraged employers to implement paid maternity leave policies to facilitate a long and lasting breastfeeding bond. Corporate Voices for Working Families has weighed in with a response, including an "Employer Guide to Workplace Support for Working Mothers".
January 27, 2011: Is Elective Office for YOU?: Mothers bring a unique set of skills and experiences to public leadership, but women tend not to put themselves forward for a variety of reasons, none of them insurmountable. "Ready to Run" gets you started and over the initial hurdles - the program can be found March 18 - 19 at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Learn more here.
January 27, 2011: The Sinking Status of Single Mothers Since 2000; Falling Farther Down says Legal Momentum: One in four US families is headed by a mother alone. A struggle in the best of times, the recession has seen single mothers' poverty rates go up while their employment rate floats down. Contrary to logical expectations, the number of single mothers receiving public assistance has also decreased, not because there are less of them, or that they need less help. The reason is that states simply strike names from their welfare rolls, or refuse to add new cases, in order to receive federal funds. In 2009, only 10% of single mother households living in poverty were recipients of public assistance, which in the vast majority of states is in the amount of $8 per day per person. So if more mothers are jobless and living in poverty, and if more children are being raised with totally inadequate resources, wouldn't helping them now be preferable to the social cost of wasted human potential in future decades?
January 27, 2011: The Business Argument Wins Again: Workplace Flexibility and the Bottom Line: Writing in the New York Times' "Economix" blog, Steven Greenhouse points out that some accounting firms do what it takes to keep the talent on the payroll because they know it ups productivity and reduces the turnover cost of recruiting and re-training. And the talent is largely female.
January 27, 2011: Women With Children Need Not Apply: Now that women are half the workforce and bring home much of the household income, a backlash against hiring mothers with children will hurt those women and their families too. A recent survey of 10,000 businesses around the world has revealed a distinct bias against women with children, and a commitment to outdated attitudes that they make unreliable employees, will soon leave to have another child, and aren't as qualified as childless workers. Forbes Magazine reports: According to the survey, bias against working moms remains strong. A surprising 38% of UK companies fear that working moms are less committed and less flexible, while 31% believe they will leave shortly after training to have another child and 17% worry returning moms will have out-of-date skills. In the US, only 28% of employers plan to hire working mothers, and in the UK the figure is 26%. If you think that women's equality has been achieved, or that women need no longer fear workplace discrimination or that legislation like the failed Paycheck Fairness Act is unnecessary, well, maybe you better think again. Note to employers: read "Business Argument Wins Again", above.
January 27, 2011: Pregnant at the Pharmacy - What Gives?:The FDA proposed three years ago new labeling standards for prescription drugs when used by pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers. The policy still hasn't gone into effect, and women's advocates are not pleased. The new information will convey the latest data on the effect to both mother and fetus, and the speed at which the medication is metabolized, critical in determining the correct dosage. Pregnant and lactating women will have better data with which to decide what, when, and how much medication to take. US Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin is encouraging the FDA to get the labeling revision regulation in place without further delay: Secretary Sebelius, like you, I am committed to ensuring that patients have the information they need to make informed medical decisions. Without improved drug labeling, doctors and patients are forced to make treatment decisions with limited information and research. Too much time has passed and continued delay in finalizing the proposed rule will only add to unnecessary exposure to ineffective drugs or ineffective dosing of effective drugs, both of which prevent patients from receiving appropriate therapies. Honestly, you'd think with women doing all the childbearing, as a society we'd want them to have everything they need to do it safely, comfortably and well. Get it done, already.
January 13, 2011: Justice Scalia Says Women Lack Constitutional Protection: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia stated in a recent interview that women are not included in the class of "persons" entitled to the "equal protection" of the law contained in the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution because the term as used at the time the amendment was adopted only referred to men. Women's groups and others have loudly rejected this interpretation, and/or argued that Judge Scalia's statement highlights the necessity of the Equal Rights Amendment, to bring women within the scope of Constitutional protection. Here's the Huffington Post article of the Justice's assertion. Politics Daily also covered it here. Picking up the challenge, several members of Congress, like Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Rep. Gwen Moore, joined women's rights activists outside the Capitol for a press conference to assert that Justice Scalia had just made the case for passage of the ERA. Here's a video of that press conference. Here's that argument from change.org
January 13, 2011: Mid-Term Shuffle in the West Wing:The second half of President Obama's first term will see some key changes in the President's staff. Notable for women and families, former head of the White House's Executive Office of Public Engagement, Tina Tchen is sliding over to become the First Lady's Chief of Staff. She will continue in her post as director of the White House Council on Women & Girls, which has opened up the Administration to the voices of women's advocacy groups and non-profits in an unprecedented fashion. This suggests that the status of women and other family caregivers will remain a priority and that the executive branch will continue to foster discussion on workplace flexibility and other issues relating to carework.
January 13, 2011:The Latest on the Mommy Tax: What happens when you decide to stay home with your children....then years later seek to re-enter the paid work force? Of course, there are many paths, and some women have re-invented themselves with ease. Others, not so much. Here's a tale from the downside which appeared in Salon.com
January 13, 2011: House Republicans Aim to Repeal Health Care Reform: Immediately after being sworn in and opening the 112th Congress, Republican leadership in the House began efforts to take apart, repeal and/or unfund the Affordable Care Act passed just last year. If they are successful, women will again face the likelihood of higher premiums based solely on their gender, exclusions for maternity care, a denial of coverage for medical treatment for injuries resulting from domestic or sexual violence, and loss of coverage due to lifetime caps. It's a matter of fact that woman will delay seeking care for themselves or incurring medical costs when money is tight. Without access to health care, millions of American families will never know economic security or peace of mind. The National Women's Law Center has put together a fact sheet showing the consequences of repealing health care reform here.
January 13, 2011: Who Gets to Put Family Before Work?: The New Jersey Governor has defended being on a family vacation during the holiday blizzard, explaining that his "first and most important responsibility...is as a husband and father". Would a female governor have dared to say the same? Lisa Belkin in the NY Times wonders...
December 17, 2010: The Myth of the "Good Mother" and the "Good Father" And How It Holds Us Back: Work/family expert and lawyer Joan Williams says, “While women are under pressure to be good mothers, always available to their children, men face gender pressures, too. Men are judged, to borrow a quote from feminism in the 70s, ‘by the size of their paycheck’ —which makes it very different to draw a line in the sand and say, ‘I need to go home to my family.’”
December 17, 2010: Of Course It's My Fault. I'm the Mother.:Nobody's got more going on than mothers. Our to-do lists are long and we willingly assume the "motherlode" of responsibility at home, at work, in our children's schools, everywhere. Apparently, in spite of the herculean tasks we set ourselves, we don't give ourselves the same amount of leeway or forgiveness we gladly offer to others. How fair is that? The US has no guaranteed paid maternity leave, paid sick days, child care costs are often prohibitively expensive, and the societal value of caring for family, which occupies so many of our waking hours, is demeaned, dismissed, and diminished. Still, we pile on. Maybe in 2011, we will give ourselves...a break!
December 17, 2010: What the "Payroll Tax Holiday" Could Do To Your Retirement: Before the year is out, Congress could extend the Bush tax cuts, approve continued unemployment insurance payments, and temporarily suspend the collection of FICA taxes from your paycheck that would otherwise flow into the coffers of Social Security and the Medicare program. This modest bump up in your take home pay is intended to put a little "spending money" in your hand whereby you will stimulate the economy. Of course, giving you that money to spend now means there will be less for the over-65 you in medical care and income support. Is this a trade-off we have to make? Should we?
December 17, 2010: What We Lost When We Lost the Paycheck Fairness Act: Senator Reid kept his promise and got the bill to the floor of the US Senate after the election, as he told us he would. The bill went down, however, because we still have a problem admitting that sometimes women are paid less just because they are women.
December 17, 2010: Women's Health at the State and National Level: Temperatures Rising!: Ten years ago, the federal government set goals for women's health to be met by 2010. Alarmingly, only 3 of the benchmarks have been achieved. Of the 23 unmet benchmarks, a number have gotten worse rather than better in the past 10 years. Explanations vary - millions of women do not have health insurance or cannot afford health care. The medical community has only recently realized that women are not merely "small men", but present a distinct and unique biology all their own worthy of separate study. (Duh!) Further, many insurers simply exclude maternity care. Summary findings show women are more likely to be obese, engage in binge drinking, and fail to get an annual pap smear. However, states offer more smoking cessation programs, more women are undergoing colorectal cancer screenings, and more women are getting annual dental checkups. They say when you've got your health, you've got everything. This report shows that that is easier in Vermont, Massachusetts, and Hawaii, and much harder in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. You can follow a recent webinar offered by the National Women's Law Center here or scan the summary findings here or listen to a radio program, only 12 minutes long, discussing the results.
December 1, 2010: Paycheck Fairness Act Dies in US Senate: A major piece of equal pay legislation was defeated in the Senate by just two votes. Promoted by a large coalition of women's rights groups, and opposed by the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, the Paycheck Fairness Act would have allowed employees to discuss compensation without fear of retaliatory action from the employer, among other things. It would also have lifted the limit on recoverable damages. Currently, if a worker proves gender based pay discrimination, he or she can recover a maximum of $300,000 from the discriminating employer, regardless of the amount of lost wages or damages actually sustained. With the winds of change blowing through Congress in January, there is no reasonable expectation that the bill will be revived for the foreseeable future. As a result, it may continue to cost employers less to shortchange their employees than comply with the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Linda Lowen offers her analysis, and helpful background links, in her About.com column here.
December 1, 2010: GDP as a "Patriarchal Economic Paradigm" Ignoring Mothers' Work: Canada has seen its own mothers movement growing, yet suffer from the same frustrations we have here. Toronto was the scene for the recent Economics of Mothering Conference sponsored by the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement. Marilyn Waring, New Zealand public policy scholar and keynote speaker, pointed out that every economic act reflected in the GDP is entirely dependent on unpaid work usually performed by a woman. In spite of this, and the fact that the largest sector of every economy is unpaid work, economic theory and the public policies it drives completely ignore the essential contributions of women and mothers. That, Waring contends, is the reason women's well-being is invisible and society rewards negative events, (e.g. oil spills, commuting costs, medical expenses) rather than truly productive efforts (child birth, child rearing, care of the very young, old, infirm or disabled). There are so many good points about this article, it's hard to summarize it fairly, so do yourself a favor, click through and read the whole thing.
December 1, 2010: Women and the Mid-Term Elections - What Did It All Mean?:
Listen to the 12-minute segment or scan the transcript of this "Tell Me More" analysis on what the midi-terms revealed about the status of women in US politics.
December 1, 2010: Women & Retirement Planning: So, a woman walks into a financial planner's office...no, it's not a joke. The seriousness of women taking charge of their financial well-being in retirement really can't be overstated. We will live longer. We have worked less and earned less and be more dependent on the "entitlement programs" so much in the news today. But even though long-term financial health is crucial to women, the financial industry does a very poor job of preparing us. Retirement planning is greatly affected by gender. The Wall Street Journal explains how here.
November 2010: Museum of Motherhood: Joy Rose, founder of the rock festival Mamapalooza, has found a building in Seneca Falls, New York, to house the Museum of Motherhood. After all, women who commit themselves to raising the next generation, century after century and sometimes in appalling circumstances, deserve recognition for their "courage, fortitude and ingenuity". Plans call for both a virtual and bricks-and-mortar museum and library to foster "real and virtual social change focused on amplifying the voices and experiences of mothers". All mothers will find a home there, including stepmothers, adoptive mothers, married mothers, single mothers and divorced mothers. Count us in!
November 2010: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: The Women's Campaign Forum's effort to call out inappropriate and misogynistic language in the mid-terms, "Name It, Change It", got some national attention last week from AP. Finding that voters perceived a woman who didn't respond to sexist attacks as a weaker, less effective candidate, Name It Change It focused on identifying unacceptable language and condemning its use in politics. Regrettably, they were kept very busy indeed in the months leading up to Election Day.
November 2010: "Momism" - How Was Motherhood Manipulated in the 2010 Elections?
from Judith Warner writing in the New York Times:
There was a time when words like “mom” or “mama” weren’t necessarily associated with the traits needed for good political judgment or the trappings of power. But it has been quite a while now — perhaps since the grass-roots activist Patty Murray got herself elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992 as “just a mom in tennis shoes” — that the mom image has been expanded from angel of the hearth to political maverick. In an age when “the mommy brain” is now considered a greatly superior organ — uniquely suited for multitasking, specialty-schooled in the challenges of diplomacy and budgeting, grounded in the can-do here and now rather than in the hopelessly abstract or esoteric — being a mom (the “just” has been dropped) is now frequently spun as a prime career asset, particularly in the world of politics.
You can find her whole column here.
November 2010: We Ended Welfare, But Not Poverty for Single Mothers:
For many single mothers, poverty grinds on in spite of small victories. Requirements for cash assistance can mean you lose your job if you have to take your sick child to the doctor. If you don't have a car, you can't apply to the 70 jobs per month required. You can't go to school because only paid work makes you eligible. As soon as your income hits a certain mark, assistance ends, even though your income is too little to cover your basic expenses. When we reformed welfare in 1996, it seems an important fact was missed. Families can still be poor even if mothers are working in minimum wage, dead-end jobs with no benefits, and no prospect of a brighter future.
October 2010: What's Wrong with Our GDP?:GDP, or gross domestic product, is an economic measure that gauges activity, like the buying and consuming of goods and services. The problem is, it doesn't include unpaid work, which is what most women spend most of their time doing, even if they are employed outside the home. Unpaid work is essential to families and households, and essential to our national economy as well. But because it is not measured, it becomes invisible, and the people who do it, (mostly women) become invisible too. "Caring Economics" is a different way of defining and measuring productive work that values the women, children and all who do it, and would lead to a more equitable distribution of power and resources. You can learn all about it in a free one hour webinar with the founder of the Caring Economics Campaign, Riane Eisler, Tuesday, October 5, 2010 at 2 p.m. EST. Register here.
October 2010:Not Faring Well on Welfare? Women and Children First: Welfare policy is women's and children's economic policy. Since 1996, we don't really have a "welfare program" anymore. What we do have is TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and it only reaches about 20% of those who need it. Eligibility rules are strict and ways to be terminated are many, such as missing work (because your child was sick, or you needed to get a mammogram, or your transportation fell though). In fact, many states have seen their TANF rolls hold steady or drop, even when the unemployment rate shoots up. Federal incentives lead states to continue to cut the number of people served, regardless of need. End result? Astonishing rates of child poverty. And women are even less likely to get help if they need it. Only 12% of impoverished women receive TANF benefits. Here's Nancy Folbre of the NYT on why the program should be re-named "Inadequate Assistance for Needy Families".
October 2010: Name It, Change It: Picture this - you're running for public office. You're giving your stump speech. Then some jerk in the back says, "Hey baby, what're your measurements?" Conventional wisdom says rise above it, ignore it, don't dignify it with a response. But conventional wisdom will cost you votes and likely bounce you right out of the running. Why? Because when sexist language is allowed to pass unopposed, the candidate is perceived as less effective, less powerful and less electable. In fact, sexist attacks against female candidates are more damaging than attacking their policy positions. From USA Today:
During this year's campaign, an opponent of Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, sent a tweet that called her "a member of the world's oldest profession." A talk-show host referred to Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., as a "high-class prostitute." And at a Democratic fundraiser in New York Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand "the hottest member" of the Senate.
Just five weeks from election day, women now have a way to call out the bullies and put a stop to language that has no business in political debate. Name It, Change It is a rapid fire response tool for the reporting and tracking of derogatory and sexist language directed at female candidates. If you see, hear, or read a misogynistic comment, identify it by entering it into the NICI database and raise a ruckus. A well-organized public outrage can put the "civil" back into our civil society.
October 2010: Real Men Take Paternity Leave:
It's no secret - there's a direct line between men's participation in household operations and women's labor force attachment. Crudely stated, the more your partner unloads the dishwasher, checks homework, and waits for the appliance repair person, the more economically self-sufficient you're likely to be. What stands between us and public policies which allow plenty of give and take between work and the rest of life? Persuading men to buy into paid family leave, paid sick days, caregiver credits and part-time worker parity. Washington journal Allison Stevens offers up the latest of her MomAgenda right here.
October 2010: National Women's History Museum....So Close, and Yet....:Our fair nation's capital of Washington DC has a museum on every corner - for space travel, for art, for textiles, ever for stamps! But no museum for women's history. That could change if Congress acts, but it must do so before the recess for midterm elections. Meryl Streep was in town last week drumming up support, and putting up some big money of her own. A site has been identified, the money is already gathered from private sources, and it won't cost taxpayers a dime. But two US Senators have put a hold on the bill, and could tank the effort. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma have stopped the museum dead in its tracks. NYT columnist Gail Collins gives you the scoop here. You can sign the petition supporting establishment of the museum here. You can watch or read Meryl's speech at last week's gala here.
September 07, 2010: Poverty and Maternal Depression: A first-of-its-kind study on the rate of depression of low-income mothers of infants points out the long range implications for us all. "A mom who is too sad to get up in the morning won't be able to take care of all of her child's practical needs," said researcher Olivia Golden, who co-authored the paper with two colleagues at the District-based Urban Institute. "If she is not able to take joy in her child, talk baby talk, play with the child - those are features of parenting that brain development research has told us contribute to babies' and toddlers' successful development." Mothers who may need professional help the most are, ironically, perhaps the least likely to receive it.
September 07, 2010: Public Policy and Breastfeeding:The state you're in will affect whether you breastfeed your baby, and for how long. California has the highest rates of breastfeeding mothers across all racial and ethnic groups, and the most mothers still doing so when their babies hit the six month mark. Why? Because state law protects public breastfeeding and promotes expressing milk at work more vigorously and has done so for longer than anywhere else in the country. We'd expect the fact that California is the only state with a modest paid maternity leave policy also has something to do with it. A positive example of the "intersection between motherhood and public policy", as we like to call it around here.
September 07, 2010: Motherhood penalty on "Today Show: It's been a long time coming, but the mainstream media is starting to pick up on issues of gender and carework and economic security. The "TODAY" show recently took up the issue of the impact of family carework on a mothers' economic security. Their story and a video of the segment are here. Linda Lisi Juergens, Executive Director of the National Association of Mothers' Centers, wrote a response to the "Today "show.
July 09, 2010: Three Minute Interview: Dr. Lynette Long and The Invisible Woman: How many statues of women are in your hometown? How many women have been pictured on US postage stamps? How many streets are named after women? Dr. Lynette Long is a lifelong counter - and she says there are remarkably few images of women in our public life. In this edition of our 3 Minute Interview, Dr. Long discusses the impact of absent female representations and what her new non-profit, Equal Visibility Everywhere, aims to do about it.
July 9, 2010: "Successful" men have spouses and children; "successful" women do not: A great deal has changed in the past 50 years for women. More of us work, many of us never marry, and we have fewer children than we used to. However, the working world remains conflicted about the presence of women in general and mothers in particular. There are more women than men in the US, and the women are more educated, yet we remain relatively few in the upper reaches of employment. In spite of having proved ourselves, financially supporting and caring for our families, the perception remains that a woman with children is a liability in the workplace.
Being labeled "mother" does more than limit compensation. Cornell University researchers conducted an eye-opening laboratory experiment involving two job candidates who were considered equal in job experience, school attended, and level of education. The only distinguishing factor? One of the applicants was identified as a parent. Shockingly, candidates identified as mothers were perceived as being less promotable, less likely to be recommended for management, and less likely to be recommended for hire than non mothers, despite having equal credentials.
Excerpted from "For Women, It's Really Lonely At The Top" in the Washington Post, Selena Rezvani, "On Leadership".
July 09, 2010: New York State's Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights: Most US workers are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act, passed in 1935. Agricultural laborers and domestic workers, performing housework of child care in a private home, were never included in the Act, reflecting long-standing prejudice against African Americans who predominated in those roles. New York's General Assembly will soon change that with the passage of a bill protecting domestic workers from forced overtime, ensuring a minimum wage and overtime pay, one day off per week, paid vacation and sick days, and other benefits. California is the only other state in the Union that has moved to treat domestic workers like other workers. Here are two articles reporting on New York's new law: NY Times and Progressive States Network
June 14, 2010: Work Life Conflict Is SO Not a "Women's Issue" : With men bearing the brunt of job loss in this recession, more of them are learning that being the primary caregiver or "stay at home dad" can be wonderful, exhausting, and a whole lot of work. But dads at work are more sensitive to demands outside of employment as well. Work/family stress reported by men is now actually higher than that reported by women.
This is one way the recession may have accelerated social changes that were already underway, albeit at a slower pace. Gender roles have been shifting for decades, but economic forces have increased awareness of the need for reality-based employment policies, like paid sick days and parental leave. The Center for American Progress reports:
One of the key facts about work-family conflict is it’s not just about women. Men now report higher levels of work-family conflict than women. We think that this may be because the typical man no longer has a stay-at-home wife and he—and she—are sharing the responsibilities (and joys!) of working outside the home and caring for family members. While some men struggle with the rise of women in the workplace, most have accepted, if not embraced, this new way of living.
June 14, 2010: Men At (House)Work: Data from Canada suggests men see their traditional gender roles shifting, and will spend more time and effort in household operations and child care. In an online poll developed to track attitudes about gender roles, men are more eager to assume new duties than women are to surrender traditional ones. "Surprisingly, men have so far been more willing than women to divide household duties with their partners and take on jobs beyond such traditionally male tasks as mowing the lawn and taking out the garbage." Women's Enews reports here.
June 2, 2010: "Having It All"; Who Can, Who Can't, and Who Should?: It makes me mad that aiming for success in both your personal and professional life is a worthy goal for a man, but if a woman should pursue it, she's accused of trying to "have it all". Who wouldn't want satisfaction in many areas of life? What are we supposed to do, mutely accept marginalization and second-class status because we have children as well as professional goals? The workplace of 2010 is a holdover from the workforce of 1960. Nowadays, people who work have all sorts of other obligations, not to mention goals and dreams beyond the day-to-day, hand to mouth existence. The solution isn't to tell parents not to want so much. The solution is to bring the workplace up to date so that workers can not only put food on the table, but actually sit down at the table with their family and eat it. The Washington Post recently asked: "Can a woman (or man) have both personal and professional success at the same time?" The answer ought to be an emphatic yes! Public policies which bring us closer to that answer, like paid sick days, part-time worker parity, and paid family leave, are the ones to follow.
June 2, 2010: Could You Care Less if Elena Kagan Becomes a Supreme Court Justice?: Before you dismiss the judicial nomination hearings as more political "blah blah blah", take a minute and consider - women's lives are greatly impacted by who sits on the court, and what decisions they make. For example, Supreme Court decisions made contraception legal and removed the prohibition that kept women from serving on juries. Before a Supreme Court decision made the change, only husbands had control over marital property, even if it belonged to the wife. Public aid was available to families with an unemployed father, but not un unemployed mother. Do you remember when there was no such thing as a sexual harassment claim, because the very notion that sexual harassment could be damaging didn't even exist? The US Supreme Court changed that. Women gained admission to state funded military academies and could sue for gender-based pay discrimination because the Court said they could. There are 9 justices on the court, and most decisions are decided 5/4, meaning that a single judge can change the whole opinion. Who is on the US Supreme Court does matter. And it matters a lot!
June 2, 2010: No Child Care, No Work: Budget Cuts Push More Mothers onto Public Assistance: The recession impacts women differently than men. State budgets are shrinking, and public funds that used to subsidize a family's child care bill are drying up all over the country. Because women are more often responsible for looking after their children, the missing money means mothers have to give up their jobs because they can't pay for child care on their own. Some mothers who have always worked are now applying for welfare - one of the few ways to secure child care. Going on cash assistance is an unsatisfactory solution. As one mother said in this New York Times article: “It’s a blow to my own self-image and self-worth as a person who can take care of myself ...I’m totally able, physically and intellectually, to continue working. But I can’t work without child care, and I can’t afford child care without work.” Read "The New Poor: Cuts to Child Care Subsidy Thwart More Job Seekers"
June 2, 2010: Mothers and Employment - 2009 Data Released: In 2009, 71.4% of US women with children under 18 were either working or looking for work. US women with children under 6 had a lower rate of workforce participation, at 64.4%. When the youngest child is between 6 and 17 years, mothers' employment rate rose to 77.3% If the woman has a child under a year old, the employment rate is only 56.6%. Married mothers have a relatively low rate of unemployment, at 5.8%. Unemployment for mothers in other marital statuses was significantly higher - 13.6% American mothers "work", in all senses of the term. And they work a lot!
US DOL, Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Employment Characteristics of Families 2009".
May 10, 2010: Mommy Contract Revolution: Ever thought of renegotiating your "Mommy Contract"? Us neither, but we like the idea! What would be an important commitment you'd like your family to make? My neighbor has a standing date with herself every Wednesday night. For a couple of hours she holes up in a neighborhood book store with a cup of tea, leaving her five daughters under Dad's care. Another friend assigns all pet chores to her children, in return for agreeing to have a dog, a cat, and a guinea pig at home. Everyone in my house gets to pick one bathroom to clean and one other major housekeeping task to perform on a weekly basis. Mothers do a lot, and it can be taken for granted. Everyone benefits when the work of running a home and family is shared. What terms would you re-negotiate if you could?
May 10, 2010: "Mothers Need More Women in Government": So says Siobhan "Sam" Bennett, President and CEO of the Women's Campaign Forum, in a recent Huffington Post column. Issues of child care, equal pay, social security, and the value of family carework are political, and have a direct impact on our economy, financial, and national security. Because these issues are interwoven in women's lives, they get attention from women legislators. Male legislators ..... not so much. The most effective way to spur social change is by electing more women, and more mothers, to political office at all levels.
May 10, 2010: And It's Not Only Government...: Women are MIA in many levels of leadership, including the corporate world, the professions, academia, even in non-profit organizations. The Harvard Business Review, not generally known as an outlet for work/life issues, recently addressed the failure of women to permeate the upper echelons of industry in spite of women's educational attainment, years of mentoring, and the voluntary implementation of "family friendly" policies at some workplaces. The Mama Bee blogger offers up her analysis of the HBR piece:
She goes on to advocate for "a different mindset," suggesting that the core problem is an unwillingness to admit that there are still profound inequities in the workplace. It should not be acceptable to tolerate corporate cultures that assume women are "less reliable" employees because they may have children; penalize women for motherhood even if they take no more than a few weeks of maternity leave; and characterize women who actively negotiate as whiny or bitchy or a host of other stereotypes - but that is exactly what women experience over and over again.
The value of women at work is intrinsically tied to the value of women in society at large. When we craft policies that respect family carework and those who provide it, women will find a greater measure of equality in paid employment as well. As long as men are preferred as workers, as members of society, as humans even - women are going to be pushed to the margins, and mothers may end up getting stuck there.
May 10, 2010: Why not us? Why not here?: Every year, Save the Children, an international child welfare agency, publishes its "State of the World's Mothers Index". Would you be surprised to learn that the US is not the number 1 country for mothers? In fact, it's not even in the top 5. Nor the top 10. It's not even in the top 20!! Nope, the US ranks 28th. If a country can't promote the welfare of mothers, how will it ever realize the maximum potential of its children? Dr. Jody Heymann, a distinguished researcher on women and work around the world, explains one aspect of our poor performance:
The United States is exceptional when it comes to workplace policy -- and not in a way that benefits American women, men or companies. One hundred and seventy-seven countries guarantee paid leave for new mothers; more than 100 guarantee 14 weeks or more of paid leave. Seventy-four countries guarantee paid leave for new fathers, 163 countries guarantee paid sick leave, 164 guarantee paid annual leave, 132 guarantee breastfeeding breaks, and 157 guarantee a weekly day of rest. The United States praises good practice but guarantees none.
Do you think more women in elected office might do something about all that?
May 10, 2010: Working Moms: It's the System That's Crazy, Not YOU!: We thought as much, but it's nice to get affirmation from others! And why limit it to "working" mothers? (Seriously, have you ever met a "non-working" mother? We think not.) US News & World Report interviews Sharon Lerner, author of the provocatively named "War on Moms: On Life in a Family-Unfriendly Nation". Buy two copies, and send one to your Member of Congress.
May 10, 2010: Even the Wall Street Journal Weighs In...: There's a common perception that raising children and pursuing a serious career is simply too much, and a woman shouldn't expect to be able to do both at the same time. Is the answer putting mothers in high profile jobs, to provide young girls with role models? Or is the answer making jobs in general less hostile to both men and women who are parenting children? We're following this discussion in the Wall Street Journal:
Critics of the Beast's argument say advocating for more role models misses the central point - that combining ambitious careers and motherhood is still way, way too hard. These critics see a double standard at work that does more damage than any lack of inspiring role models. For example, working dads draw praise for "helping" with the kids and the housework, based on the assumption that such things are women's work. But ambitious working moms, lacking social support and laboring under a second shift at home, are hard-pressed to meet the outsized expectations heaped upon powerful professionals in our society. And the corresponding stereotype about singles - the "she-has-no-life" label assigned to unmarried childless women - just reinforces that message ...
Whatever the answer, when the debate has penetrated the pages of the WSJ, some progress is being made.
April 20, 2010: Three Minute Interview - Tara Brettholtz and the Power of a Purse Campaign: Tara Brettholtz is a mother, women's advocate, and a director of Mothers & More. Her organization's "Power of a Purse" project distributes stylish and gently used purses to women seeking employment, often overcoming significant personal and economic hurdles. Our (Wo)Man in Washington, Valerie Young, caught Tara between press events in upstate New York, for this month's 3 Minute Interview.
April 18, 2010: It Aint Over 'Til...: Family caregiving may have started with our children, but for most of us, it certainly will not end there. Increased longevity means more people will live longer and need more care from their spouses, grown children, and loved ones. What will this mean for the caregiver? And for society as a whole?
April 18, 2010: The "Change" - No, Not Menopause: When a mother who stayed home returns to the paid work force, she faces many changes. Of course, everyone in the household will be affected, and it is often a tricky, complicated dance of transition. The Washington Post recently devoted it's weekly Magazine cover feature to this topic.
April 18, 2010: More on Equal Pay Day: The Wall Street Journal takes note of Equal Pay Day and what it does and doesn't show about men, women, and employment. Is the gap evidence of gender discrimination? Or does it simply reflect that men and women tend to congregate in different fields and industries, and that women's fields (teaching, nursing, etc.) just pay less? In either case, the author notes that women leave paid work more often to care for others, and for longer periods than men do, and that women are more likely to pursue lower paying and part-time work, to allow for the unpaid carework they must do. But women are now better educated than men, and even in the same professions, they tend to be paid less. Is pay disparity the result of more than one factor, and what should be done?
April 18, 2010: Equal Pay Day : Are We Missing the Point?: It takes the average working woman until April 20, 2010 to earn the same amount that the average man earned as of December 31, 2009. Equal Pay Day highlights the wage gap between men and women, working full-time and year round. However, a blogger at the Harvard Business Review says the real problem isn't a wage gap, but a business structure which cannot use female talent effectively, and ignores the massive buying power women hold.
The real issue isn't salaries. That is a symptom of a deeper issue: a massive corporate mis-adaptation to today's talent realities and the subsequent inability to retain and develop women as well as men. I call this "gender asbestos." It's hidden in the walls, cultures and mindsets of many organizations. But ridding the structure of the toxins will require more than pointing accusingly at the mess. It requires a detailed plan for how to move forward - and a compelling, attractive portrait of the result.
April 18, 2010: Health Reform and Pumping at Work: The recent health reform bill will change the status quo for new mothers at work who want to continue breastfeeding their babies.
The National Partnership for Women & Families has a page up about this aspect of the bill here.
The new law gives nursing women the right to unpaid time and a private place "other than a bathroom" to pump breast milk at work for the first year after a child's birth. It applies to all employers, with some exceptions for businesses with fewer than 50 workers that can show that complying would cause "undue hardship." The provision covers hourly workers - including wait staff, retail workers call center workers, some factory workers - who are most likely not to have access to a time and place to pump. Regulations are yet to be issued.
March 15, 2010: Your Breastmilk vs. Your Financial Security: Breast is best - that's one message that no new mother has missed for decades. But even breastfeeding plays a role in the economic impact of motherhood. The longer you breastfeed your baby, the longer it may be before you return to the paid labor force. Six months here, six months there - before you know it, your lifetime earnings and savings have taken a hit because you devoted that time, energy, and 'liquid gold" to your child. As the Wall Street Journal work/life blog points out, health outcomes aren't the only measure of success when it comes to child-rearing. Economic outcomes, for parent and child, count too.
March 15, 2010: 3.2.1. launch!: Resuming paid employment after time for family carework or another reason is becoming more common. Re-entry is daunting to the job-seeker and can be a cause for employer concern as well. However, "relaunchers" come back with more to offer, and are getting better at making their case. Are you worried about the consequences of leaving work for home? Thinking about leaving home and going back to work? Check out this interview with the author of 'Back on the Career Track: A Guide for Stay-At-Home Moms Who Want to Return To Work'
15, 2010: Tricky Timing: When Should You Have a Child?: Becoming a parent is a life-changing event, worthy of serious thought. Now that women are half the US workforce, and that 80% of women have at least 1 child by the age of 40, timing parenthood and career is a major decision. About 20% of us wait until 35 or later to become mothers. (I had my first child at 33 and the second at 37, and didn't feel ready a moment sooner.) A Forbes magazine survey reports that the ideal age is between 25 and 29. What do you think? Is that too late? Too soon? Email me your opinion at
March 15, 2010: The Maternal Wall - Opting Out or Boxed In?: There is no one way to be a mother, and no two women confront exactly the same set of circumstances. But one thing is certain - whether you're home or at work, mothering is hard and often stressful work, partly due to impediments well beyond your control. Inadequate child care options, and workplaces designed for a different age, are a large part of the problem. So is the total lack of regard for carework and childrearing reflected in our national values. The book Glass Ceilings and 100 Hour Couples discusses the absence of any real "choice" and how women cope.
Many of the women Moe and Shandy interviewed reported stalls in their careers due to the maternal wall. They either stayed at the same level, moved laterally, or moved downward. For many, this was the push they needed to decide to stay home. Moe and Shandy do report a number of women who relish the role of motherhood and planned to stay at home once they had a family all along, but out of their research sampling, these were the minority.
March 18, 2010: On The Radio: NPR broadcast a three part series about women, work/life balance, and how the workplace is changing - slowly, and at last - to reflect that fact that working people have lives outside of work.
February 22, 2010:
The Problem with Maternity Leave...: is that women take it. If men insisted on a period of paid leave when a child was born or adopted, the whole family leave conversation would be radically different. While a mother's wish to be close to her child is seen as completely normal, a father's wish for the same can put him in a different light. The Wall Street Journal, surprisingly, posted this piece.
February 22, 2010: Tax Time Looms: As a result of the stimulus plan, more tax credits are available to more families this year. The National Women's Law Center has information here. Every year, taxpayers leave millions of dollars to which they are entitled unclaimed in their tax returns. Are you sure you know if you are eligible or not?
February 22, 2010: The Economics of Marriage: Marriage, like so many other things, has changed significantly in the past few decades. People marry later in life, wives are as educated as their husbands, and the gap between the earnings of married partners has narrowed. What this means for economic decisions in the home and policy decisions in a larger context is the subject of a riveting radio discussion. You can listen on your computer here.
February 19, 2010: The Recession, Men, Women, Work, and Staying Home:The economic hard times persist and force change on the home front. More women continue to work or leave home to start working (for money, outside the home, as opposed to the uncompensated labor they do inside the home). More fathers are out of the paid work force and finding themselves more engaged on the front line of housework and childcare. It's a fascinating time to be looking at these shifts, and what they reveal about carework. Two recent articles are worth reading. One from the Washington Post, about families adjusting to mothers going to work:
Magazine became part of the decline in the ranks of stay-at-home moms, whose numbers have fallen from 5.3 million in 2007 to 5.1 million in 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. There was no statistically significant difference in the number of stay-at-home dads.
One from a recent New York Times blog, about fathers not being encouraged to pursue fulltime fatherhood:
In the grand sweep of American lifestyle choices, stay-at-home fatherhood is possibly the only one that doesn’t get eulogized in our popular culture.
February 10, 2010: No Getting Around the Maternal Wall: Having it all...redefining success...the work life balance...if this sounds like lip service to some sort of nirvana, or holy grail, I'm with you, sister. Perhaps we cling to one common hope. Surely, somewhere, someone has figured it out. Or maybe you believe you could figure it out, if there were only more money/time/help/sharing of the housework. Or ...maybe not.
Cheer up - better educated, richer, more talented, and privileged women than you have tried...and failed. The Rhodes Scholarship Program, which sends exceedingly gifted students to Oxford University in England, began admitting women just over 30 years ago. Now, supposedly in the full flower of their talent and training, these women report quite a few thorns amongst the roses. Research indicates that US Rhodes alumnae experience frustration with their professional and home lives, as most women with children do. Dr. Ann Olivarius, founder of the Rhodes Project and a Rhodes Scholar herself, writes:
This is a project worth following, and we will. The "maternal wall" apparently doesn't recognize class or educational status. If the smartest, best educated women in America can't make it work, the problem, it would seem, lies not with American women, but with America.
What I think will be of particular interest -- if no particular surprise --are the inequalities (both at home and at the workplace) that Rhodes mothers face: 81% of Rhodes mothers said they had "limited or turned down career opportunities because of their children" while only 43% of their (mostly male) partners had. At the same time, 48% of the women said they did not spend as much time with their children as they wished. Finally, 48% said they found it harder to get promoted or recognized at work because they were female, and 40% said they felt that way specifically because they had children.
February 10, 2010: Carework is Unskilled Labor: It's not a news flash that women in the direct care, home care, or health aide field are poorly paid. Perpetuating the misconception that carework is unskilled labor these employees are not protected by the usual labor laws, such as minimum wage, overtime pay, etc. A technical legal distinction, classifying them as "companions" rather than workers, is responsible. Both the US Department of Labor and the US Congress have the power to make this change. Neither has chosen to address this unfair and exploitive instance of discrimination, according to a recent New York Times article:
Like Ms. Coke, who was born in Jamaica, home care workers are often immigrants. Most are women, minorities and earn a low income. They are not mere companions. They typically help to feed, dress and move their elderly and disabled clients, plus keep house. Home care also is one of the nation’s fastest-growing occupations. Currently numbering around two million, they are among the lowest-paid and most-exploited in the work force.
Feed, dress, move, clean, care, help....sounds like mothering, also regarded as unskilled labor. Coincidence?
February 09, 2010: FY 2011 Budget Reflects Women's Interests:The White House's discretionary spending freeze is not going to hit a number of programs dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls. In fact, some of them received small increases rather than cuts. This is good news for female athletes, teens at risk of getting pregnant, those impacted by domestic violence, and others.
February 09, 2010: Britain Expands Paid Leave to Fathers: Encouraging states to consider paid leave programs with funding in the FY2011 budget is a good step. But we'll have a long way to go to catch up with the rest of the world. Recently, Britain expanded its paid leave policy to new fathers, offering them 3 months paid, and three additional months unpaid. American parents continue to do without something regarded as a basic right in the rest of the world, like health care.
February 09, 2010: Family Responsibility Discrimination in Chicago: Dena Lockwood worked for two years selling medical services. She never missed a sales target or received any criticism. One day, she asked to stay home with one of her two children, who had contracted pink eye. She was summarily fired, then found out she had been paid less and received a lower commission than her colleagues without children, who easily arranged to stay home and meet the plumber or attend to other occasional emergencies. She filed the first suit in the Chicago Commission for Human Rights under a local Chicago law prohibiting discrimination against those with family caregiving responsibilities, and she won.
February 01, 2010: Hilda Solis FY2011 Budget: Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor, announced a request for $50 million in funding for the US DOL's 2011 budget to give grant money to states to initiate paid leave programs for workers needing to care for a seriously ill child, spouse or parent, or bond with new or newly adopted baby. This program will reinforce job retention by keeping workers connected to the paid labor force, and keep them on a career path to the middle class. Paid leave would benefit millions of American workers, especially those who bear a disproportionate share of family carework, who are not eligible under current law, or who cannot afford to take unpaid leave.
January 25, 2010:The Stimulus Plan, Tax Credits, and Women: It's no surprise that women-headed households have higher rates of poverty. The rate could go as high as 46% for 2009 because of increased unemployment caused by the current recession. The stimulus plan is designed to provide some relief by making the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit available to more women and families working and supporting their children. If you didn't qualify before, it's worth looking again. It's easier to be eligible, and the amount of the benefit may be larger. These changes expire at the end of 2010, though, because the stimulus plan is intended as a temporary fix to (what is hoped to be) a temporary problem. The National Women's Law Center has more information here.
January 22, 2010: Michelle Obama Promotes Work/Family Policies: Mrs. Obama continues to make the rounds of all the federal agencies in Washignton and talk to employees, most recently appearing at the Department of Labor. She specifically noted the need for paid family leave, paid sick days, flexibility and access to affordable child care. Drawing on her experiences before assuming the role of First Lady, Mrs. Obama acknowleged the tension between the roles of worker and caregiver, and how conflict and guilt can undermine one's performance in both places.
January 22, 2010: Pregnant at Work: More women in the workforce means more pregnant women on the job. In 2008, 61% of all expectant or new mothers were getting a paycheck. How will the workplace cope? It's a very mixed bag, according to the Wall Street Journal.
January 21, 2010:The Three-Minute Interview - Allison Stevens, Journalist: Allison Stevens is a writer in Washington D.C. She has a new baby, her second, and will soon have a new blog on Women's eNews, too. Lately, she's been multitasking, juggling writing with breastfeeding, often simultaneously. We spoke about mothering and work for this month's Three Minute Interview.
January 12, 2010:The Motherhood Penalty: The research is starting to pile up. Eight years after publication of MOTHERS founder Ann Crittenden's "The Price of Motherhood", more evidence of the unfair treatment of women with children is being studied. Social scientist In Paik discusses the unequal treatment experienced by women with children, as opposed to childless women, childless men, and men with children. Fascinating facts emerge, such as women earn about 5% less per child than other workers, controlling for education and other employment factors. Mothers in the workplace are regarded as less competent, less dependable, less authoritative, less committed, but more approachable and likeable than non-mothers. The discrimination arises from tension between our cultural attitudes towards mothers and those towards "ideal" workers. Read an interview with Paik about the discrimination revealed in her laboratory experiments and research here.
January 12, 2010: Note to Self: Request Flexible Schedule:Do your New Year's resolutions include asking for an alternative work schedule? To prepare, the Women's Bureau at the US Department of Labor offers information, newsletters, and a slew of good arguments you can use in bringing a flex option proposal to your employer. Check it out and be confident.
January 12, 2010: We Could Do It Differently: As the debate swirling around health care reform has revealed, other countries provide their citizens with medical care in a variety of different ways, almost all at a lower cost than ours, and with better outcomes. The implications of the path we choose, however, will affect the lives of women in a more dramatic way, because women do more of the work of looking after family members. In this recent article from the Washington Post, an American compares notes with her Scottish and French friends all of whom are caring for their aging mothers.
I am struck by all that Fiona's mum and Juliette's maman can take for granted. They enjoy access to services far beyond free and full medical and prescription drug coverage. In England, my mother's $5,800 hearing aid would have been free. While Mum and Maman get house calls from their doctors and cash compensation for family members who care for them, I often had to take time off from work -- an expensive proposition for a self-employed psychologist and writer -- to help Mom. Taking her back and forth to her medical appointments ate up entire days and, with her disabilities, she could barely get in and out of my car. This was hard work, not quality time with an aging parent.
You will find the whole article here.
January 08, 2010: Hidden Costs of Being Female: The health care debate in Washington recently revealed that women are routinely charged more for insurance coverage. Apparently, the gender price gap doesn't stop there. Comparisons of razors, body wash, haircuts, moisturizers, and other products marketed to women can cost up to 50% more than comparable products designed for men, even when made by the same manufacturer.
If that were the end or it, I'd put down my pencil and stop taking notes. But there's more. Women are significantly more likely to carry subprime mortgages than men with similar income, which means their higher interest rates ratchet up the price of the loan by thousands of dollars a year. So, from drug store purchases, to dry cleaning bills, car loans, mortgages, and insurance coverage, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that gender discrimination continues to exist acrosst the board. When women earn less than men, pay more for a vast range of products and services, and when women with children have a harder job getting hired and are paid less than childless women as well as fathers - well, you wonder why we continue to allow ourselves to be devalued and manipulated.
December 17, 2009:Could the Recession Actually Be Good for Families?: If fathers are laid off, will they do more to run the house and raise the children? Will more time together bring families closer? It's worth thinking about. This Newsweek article notes the continuing hurdles women face at work, and explores the recession's possible effects.
When a working father takes time off to watch a ballet recital, he's seen as noble. When a working mother rushes out of the office to care for a case of head lice, she's more likely to be labeled undependable. Mothers looking for work are less likely to be hired, are offered lower salaries, and are perceived to be less committed than fathers or women without children, according to a 2005 report by Shelley Correll, now an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University. And according to a 2007 survey by Elle/MSNBC.com, female bosses are twice as likely than their male counterparts to be seen as having family obligations interfere with work.
Does this ring true, or do you have a different experience? We'd like to know.
December 16, 2009: Will Federal Employees Get Paid Parental Leave?: The federal government employs a great many people all over the country. They need employees with a vast range of backgrounds, training, skills and experience in a huge array of different functions. Because of the looming retirement of so many baby boomers, the federal workforce will soon be diminishing and must compete with higher paying private sector employers for far fewer and far younger workers. The government's strategy is to offer better workplace policies as it can't compete with the private sector compensation levels. Sure, the message goes, you could make more money, but your quality of life will be better with federal holidays, flexible scheduling, access to health insurance and pension programs, paid sick leave, paid vacation, and soon, legislators hope, paid parental leave. To attract younger men and women who may not have accrued enough paid time off to welcome and adjust to a newly born or adopted baby, a bill now in Congress would give four weeks paid parental leave. If the bill is successsful, the federal government would be the biggest employer in the country offering this benefit. Find out more here.
December 16, 2009: Women In Public Office - Why It Matters: Women with children pay a huge price - the time and energy we devote to our families in myriad ways prevents us from being able to engage in the kinds of activities which could strengthen the public role we play. Informing ourselves about state, local, and national matters may not be on the "To Do" list. Getting active, expressing ourselves as citizens, finding the lawmakers pushing for the policies we need may not be on it either. Actually running for office and getting elected, then serving your term - well, for most, a hazy, far-off dream. The tragedy of the consuming reality of family carework is that it stops more women from doing just the things that would improve the effectiveness and economic security of the caregiver. Yet everybody knows that it matters when women are at the table. Read Linda Lowen on "Why Do We Need More Women in Government? Here's Why"
December 15, 2009: It's Not Over 'Til...:So you think your heavy-duty caregiving days are over when the last one goes off to kindergarten? Or your baby starts high school? Or moves into that college dorm? Think again! The object of your attention may change, but the carework will continue. About 66 million Americans are looking after an elderly, sick or disabled family member. (This number does not include the number of women and men are who are taking care of their own children.) The typical family caregiver, according to a recent survey by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, is a 49-year-old woman employed outside the home who spends an additional 19 hours per week caring for a parent, spouse, or other relative. Along with all the upsides (and we know there are many), caregivers frequently cut their hours, seek less demanding (and less lucrative) positions, sacrifice their health, increase their stress, take time off and/or miss work. The same policies that support women with children will support all those who do family carework - and it will be more and more of us, for a long time to come. You'd think that seeing this looming need draw ever closer would lead to practical public policy initiatives like paid leave, paid sick days, flexible schedules, part-time worker parity. But you'd be wrong. I sure hope good practices are in place by the time I get old and I need someone to look after me.....
December 13, 2009: 2009 in the Rear View Mirror: What significant events occurred this year in the field of work/life practices? From President Obama's signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to the H1N1 epidemic, with a recession in between, read the rundown from WorkLife Nation here.
December 13, 2009: She Blinded Me with Science:The two American Nobel prize winners in medicine, both women, stated that structure of careers in the sciences prevents many women from progressing in the field. Men and women start out in roughly equal numbers, but women will take breaks or seek more flexible arrangements or part-time work, for childbearing and family reasons, which interfere with their advancement. Elizabeth H. Blackburn and Carol W. Greider noted that the career structure works for men, but not for women. The science and research undertaken by women, however, is not affected in quality by their work patterns.
December 13, 2009: Women At the Top? Not Really!:For those who think gender equity has been achieved and we can all go home and call it a day, we have some chilling news. Women are only 6.3% of corporate top earners, and only occupy 15.2% of seats on the boards of directors in Fortune 500 companies. That works out to a ratio 6 men to 1 woman around that conference room table. Yet, women are earning more than half of all Masters degrees in Business Administration, and those companies with women in policy-making positions tend to post higher profits.
November 19, 2009: Women and the Labor Movement: More women have joined labor unions. In 1983, women were 35% of organized labor. In 2008, they comprised 45%, and if this growth rate continues, by 2020 women will outnumber men in unions across the country. Union workers have more education now than ever before, with 1/3 possessing four year college degrees. As women have surpassed men in education generally, so they have also in unions, where half of women have four-year degrees. In fact, the more advanced the education, the greater the likelihood of union membership, which is totally the reverse of the historical data. Does the increase in women's membership change the agenda? Definitely - childcare, workplace flexibility, paid leave, and sick days are now issues, as is higher insurance costs for women. This increases labor's power as well, because union voters are about 25% of the electorate. The fastest growing sector of new voters is comprised of women and minorities - who increasingly influence the labor movement. More diversity, more women, and more education. More political clout. It's all good.
The one-pager from the Center for Economic Policy Research.
The AP News Service story is here.
November 19, 2009: US Failing Its Mothers and Children: My mother always said, you can tell what a country values by how it spends its money. Okay, she never actually said that, but it is still true. In 2005, the latest year for which data is available, the US ranked 30th in the world in infant mortality. In 1960, the US occupied 12th place, a drop of 18 slots in 35 years. Countries ranking better include most all of Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Israel. In terms of numbers, the US sees an average of 6.86 infant deaths per 1000 births. The best countries, with a rate of 3 infant deaths or lower per 1000, are Sweden, Finland, and in East Asia. It makes you wonder if we really do have the best health care delivery system in the world.....
November 17, 2009: Do You Have Paid Sick Leave?: Fifty million working American's don't. This makes dealing with swine flu more complicated than just trying to get better. This article explains how different workplaces confront the issue. With no national standard, it's pretty much a crapshoot how you might fare.
November 17, 2009: It's the Carework - Again!: Women are earning more advanced degrees in the sciences, and in some specialties just as many as men. Yet they leave the field in greater numbers and much earlier than men. Now we know why - carework. Women with children are less likely to enter a tenure track position, and if they do, are significantly less likely to actually obtain tenure. By contrast, married men with children, and childless women, demonstrate about the same rate of sticking to their career track. Losing these highly educated and specialized scientists sounds an ominous bell for the future candidate pool of top researchers, and the continued status of the US as a global scientific leader. Our lack of effective work/live policies may cost us our ability to compete.
November 17, 2009: Sex Discrimination Is One Thing - Gender Bias Is Something Else:
It's a two way street. Women with children hit the maternal wall, when bosses assume they don't want heftier assignments or projects with travel, and their careers stall. Men with children get hassled if it becomes known that they plan to take parental leave for caregiving work at home. Both men and women find assumptions based on gender affect expectations and evaluations at work. It's subtle, it's stealthy, and it's not fair or legal. The Center for WorkLife Law has devised a board game to show all the nuances involved and help you to spot it when it happens.
Noted economist Nancy Folbre blogs about it in the New York Times here.
You can get right to the game itself here.
October 29, 2009: Three Minute Interview with Ginger Garner: This Mother, Educator, Author, Blogger, Physical Therapist and Yoga Practitioner Talks About Childbirth in America, and Why It Needs to Change.
October 23, 2009:Michelle Obama on Women and Health Reform
October 20, 2009: You Heard It Here First:Women have more at stake in health care reform than men do. We've beaten the drum loudly on that these past few weeks. Now our friends at the National Women's Law Center have put together a video as part of a campaign to raise women's awareness. You can watch it right here on your computer.
October 20, 2009: "A Woman's Nation" - Good News, or Bad? : Lots of buzz this week surrounding women now making up half the paid labor force, because the recession has taken more men out of work, and because families need the money women earn. But is that the whole story? The wide view, from journalist Bonnie Erbe:
October 15, 2009: Three Minute Interview with Kristin Maschka:Advocacy Coordinator Valerie Young caught author Kristin Maschka during her current coast to coast book tour, introducing "This Is Not How I Thought It Would Be: Remodeling Motherhood to Get the Lives We Want Now." Kristin talks about the unexpected aftermath she encountered after becoming a mother, and offers suggestions and insights for your own transition in our 3 minute interview.
October 9, 2009: Video: Women Senators take the floor and slam gender discirmination in current health care system.
October 7, 2009:Nobel Prize Winner is a Mother:Two of the three winners of this year's Nobel Prize for Medicine are women. One of them, microbiologist and mother Elizabeth Blackburn, talks about her work, her family, mother stereotypes, and the often messy way it all comes together.
September 23, 2009: From the White House to your house: A four minute video on health care reform. Whatever your opinion, you have to be informed.
September 23, 2009: Am I Blue?: According to some "experts", American women, for all their workplace success and education, are increasingly unhappy. According to Maureen Dowd's recent NYT column, we are stressed to the max by the demands of home, work, and a society idolizing youth and beauty. Were we better off when choices were fewer and our worth established by our gardens and dinner parties? No, no, and no, says work/family expert and law professor Joan Williams:
Even mothers who had planned to proceed full speed ahead hit the maternal wall. Having a child is the worst economic decision a woman can make, in part, because workplace discrimination against mothers is the strongest and most open form of gender discrimination.
Now THAT'S what we're talkin' about..... Read more here.
September 23, 2009: Why We Need Paid Sick Days: Your doctor, your government, and your community are getting ready for the H1N1 epidemic. Yet the most effective way to stay healthy lies beyond our grasp - paid sick days. Is it crazy to see this looming without a way to fight infection? We think so!!
September 23, 2009: The Women's Crusade: We were bowled over by the NYT Magazine Special Edition devoted to the condition of women around the world. Authors Sheryl WuDunn and Nicholas Kristof assert that the oppression of women is the human rights issue of our generation. Further, the answer to many intractable problems, such as war, terrorism, and poverty is the empowerment of women and their equal access to opportunity.
Many other throughtful writers have resonded to the article since its publication. Debating the interplay between global economic development and the role of women, a nuanced and well-rounded perspective has emerged. We don't often stray from domestic policy in our enews, but on this occasion we felt bound to offer this discussion to you. After all, no woman (as they say) is an island, and this country is part of a world community.
The Kristof/WuDunn article from the NYT Magazine is here.
Notable reactions and responses have been collected here.
September 21, 2009: MRS. O - UP ALL NIGHT: Michelle Obama spoke out recently about how women are mistreated under the current health care system. She cited the higher premiums women are charged, and the classification of C-section delivery, having given birth, and having suffered domestic violence as excludable "pre-exiting conditions" for which no coverage may be offered. "These are the kinds of things that keep me up at night" stated Mrs. Obama, a former hospital administrator before moving into the White House.
Because women often work part-time, in small businesses, or in lower wage jobs, they are less likely to have access to an employer sponsored health insurance plan. Individual policies are not regulated by any national standards, and a worker has no leverage when contracting for coverage. The various reform measures in Congress would make all these practices illegal.
Mrs. Obama placed discrimination and bias against women in the health insurance industry in the context of our long quest for equal rights. "In many states, insurance companies can still discriminate because of gender. And this is still shocking to me."
September 01, 2009: The Three Minute Interview: Caregiving as a Work of Art: Motherhood has many facets - it influences your economic status, your politics, what you buy, and what you read. It also influences your art. Here's a three minute interview with artist Nita Sturiale about her project, "Visible Labor | Working Bodies":
August 31, 2009: And Then There Was One:Australia has enacted a paid family leave policy, leaving the United States as the sole industrial nation with no reliable economic support for parents of a newborn or newly adopted baby. Newsweek magazine suggests that this country will only make the leap to paid leave when "the political cost of inaction" is too high. The cost to families, to parents, and to mothers is already too high - the missing link remains harnessing that personal experience to political action.
August 30, 2009: How Mad Are You?:The latest charge hitting the airwaves is that mothers are perpetually mad at their husbands for slacking off in the housework department. While fathers are proud to see themselves doing more at home than their fathers did, mothers are trying to model both their mothers and their fathers, and (not surprisingly) see themselves coming up short. Conflict skyrockets in the first five years after a child is born - who does more? Who ought to try harder? Listen to this 7 minute audio clip with Lisa Belkin and Jeremy Adam Smith.
August 27, 2009: You Can't Afford to Look Away:We were shocked that including pre-natal and obstetrical care in the health care reform bill would be open for debate. Currently, insurance companies can exclude maternity-related expenses, or make coverage harder or more expensive to get, through a variety of legal means. And if you are one of the millions of uninsured women, coverage isn't even an issue. One of the goals of reform, in addition to ensuring access for all to quality medical care, must be guaranteeing women pre-natal and maternal care. Stay engaged.
August 27, 2009: Divorce Can Multiply Caregiving Demands:Say years ago your parents divorced. Eventually, each of them remarried. And when you married your first husband, his parents were divorced, and then they each remarried. Your second husband also has parents, and your parents and your current and ex-spouse's parents are all living. And now they are getting older.....and you are looking after untold numbers of aging parents, in-laws, former in-laws, and step in-laws, from San Francisco to St. Petersburg and Tampa to Toledo. This nightmare scenario is reality for increasing numbers of boomers and boomer children, and was the subject of a recent New York Times blog.
August 1, 2009: "Caregiving - Our Own Personal Burden?":Whether you are driving to work, sitting by the pool, or packing the diaper bag, this piece from our friends at fem2pt0 will give you pause and set you to ponder.
August 1, 2009: Babies, Work, Bosses, Home: There is no right answer, no simple solution, no one way to do it. Mothering takes as many different forms as there are mothers who do it. In this post and the comments that follow, you will find some thoughtful responses from women who faced the work/family conundrum. MUCH more helpful - and real - than the media screeching and judgementalism so often heard on this topic. Read Lisa Belkin’s blog post in the NY Times here.
July 30, 2009: From the White House to Your House: Before the women and men of the US Congress head home for their August vacation, they continue their attempts to pound out a health care bill. The White House has released four one page summaries about various aspects of its proposal. We clicked first on "How Health Insurance Reform Will Help Women". You'll also find:
How Health Insurance Reform Will Help Your Family
The Economic Effects of Health Care Reform on Small Businesses and Their Employees
How Health Insurance Reform Holds Insurance Companies Accountable
July 27, 2009: Wall Street Journal readers on "work life balance":Here's a thought-provoking discussion about spending your anniversary drafting a report for the boss, and planning the family reunion while at your desk. Is this another way to view work life balance? It may be necessary, but desirable? There are issues of class as well - professionals seem more likely to experience "schedule creep". Surely, other workers have similar needs, but more limited opportunity. What is the outcome for them? Write us back with your comments - we'd like to write about your ideas and experiences tool.
July 27, 2009: Perception Or Reality?: Are some jobs just too demanding for mothers? If we can "see" women as letter carriers, doctors, and business owners, can we see "work" as one part of life, rather than the all-consuming, most important, primary function of life? Here is a riveting discussion with author Pamela Stone about motherhood and work, the illusion of "choice", and what American workers will tolerate that their counterparts elsewhere will not.
June 15, 2009: Maternity Leave and the Economy:What happens when worries about holding on to your job arrive at the same time as your baby?
June 15, 2009: A Lifetime of Caring: Caring for children is demanding, complicated, and wonderful work. It is so important to children, to the caregivers themselves, and to soceity as a whole. But it will likely not be the only carework we do. More and more men and women will play a major role providing care for their own parents. And a good thing too - if family members didn't look after each other, the cost of it, over $350 billion this year alone, would break the US Treasury. Stepping up, making sacrifices, adapting, adjusting - the caregiver pretty much goes it alone. Most caregivers of elderly relatives work, and most, so far, are women. We can expect carework, and the issues it raises, to stretch across our entire adult lives. We won't "grow out of it" as our children mature and leave home. It is worth our time and effort to create a culture that acknowledges and treasures this work, and respects the men and women, mothers and fathers, and sons and daughters, who do it. The Washington Post considers the work of caring for parents in this thoughtful article.
June 15, 2009: Read It and Weep....:Spain has just increased its period of paid paternity leave from 13 days to one month.
June 8, 2009: Benefits of Workplace Flexibility to Hourly Employees and Business:
John Wilcox, Sloan Work and Family Blog: Corporate Voices recently did a study on the benefits of Workplace flexibility to hourly employees. Here are the key highlights of there findings.
June 8, 2009: When Opting Out Isn't an Option: Ann Friedman, the American Prospect: For too long, the narrative about working women has centered on professionals with children. It's time we focus on the majority of women workers.
June 8, 2009: A Progressive Program for Family Leave Insurance: Heather Boushey, Center for American Progress:Taking time off to care for a child or parent isn’t a viable option for most because of the economic impact. More times than none it would be unpaid leave and let’s be realistic who can afford it! Could Social Security benefits now be the answer to our unpaid Family Leave woe? Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress has an interesting take on what can be done to alleviate some of the burden. “It’s time to take what is now a benefit of the privileged and turn it into a right for all workers”
May 26, 2009:Let's Not Waste a Good Crisis:Economic turmoil is certainly unsettling, but it can also offer opportunity. Can this recession help women improve their economic and social status? Silvia Ann Hewlitt has some ideas.
May 21, 2009:We've seen a slew of new data on paid sick days in recent months, because this time legislation will come closer to passing. The Healthy Families Act has just been introduced (again!) in the US Congress, and the atmosphere on the Hill is more favorable. A recent report from the Center for Economic Policy Research points out that other industrialized, wealthy, and developed countries have devised a workable solution to illness, childbirth, and other unavoidable family health events;
The report, "Contagion Nation: A Comparison of Paid Sick Day Policies in 22 Countries," finds that the U.S. is the only country among 22 countries ranked highly in terms of economic and human development that does not guarantee that workers receive paid sick days or paid sick leave. Under current U.S. labor law, employers are not required to provide short-term paid sick days or longer-term paid sick leave.
You'll find a brief press release about the report and its findings here.
A New York Times article about the introduction of the Healthy Families Act is here.
May 21, 2009: What If.....?:The recent flu pandemic has made clear once and for all that work/life policy has an effect far beyond the family circle. What if everyone went to work no matter how sick they were? What if sick children were sent to school carrying contagious diseases? What if everyone kept cooking in restaurants, stacking groceries, delivering your mail? When national and local authorities told us all to stay home, did they intend for us to miss a few days' pay, or worse, lose our jobs? We were lucky this time. Businesses were not forced to close, public services were not suspended, and the economy was able to roll with the punches, even in its damaged state. Next time, if the virus spreads faster, and is more severe, the lack of a federal paid sick days policy could be catastrophic.
May 18, 2009: "Taking Care of Our Caregivers": Cabinet Secretary Acknowledges Dedication of Caregivers:Freshly-minted Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, formerly governor of Kansas and mother of 2, wrote to the Washington Post about the status of those who care for the elderly and disabled. The paper published a lengthy article about home health aides and the role they play in families where one or more members needs care. Home care workers put in long hours, are poorly paid, often have no health benefits and no paid time off to see to their own health needs. Unpaid family caregivers, of children or the elderly, ill, or disabled, struggle with many of the same problems.
In her letter, Secretary Sebelius states that home health aides and nursing assistants are the "backbone" of the long term care system. Calling the hands-on assistance they provide "invaluable", she cites departmental efforts underway to make caregiving jobs more attractive and decrease turnover. In turn, the quality of care provided, upon which so many households depend, will improve. We'd like to believe these improvements will highlight the critical nature and social value of carework generally, no matter where, for whom or by whom it is done, and whether it is paid or not.
You can find the Secretary's letter here. The original article, which initially appeared with the cover headline "Cut Rate Angels", can be found here.
May 18, 2009: Motherhood Can Be Deadly: In the US, there is a motherhood penalty, which is largely economic. In other parts of the world, the penalty can be death.
May 14, 2009: It's Not Always About the Children: As women, we take care of everybody, not just our children. And we think mothers deserve a least a month, not just a single day. So there's plenty of time to talk to your own mother or grandmother, and help her make the necessary moves to protect her own economic security. The Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement can help get the conversation rolling with five important questions.
May 12, 2009: Gender Wage Gap:We know we mentioned Equal Pay Day in the last enews. But we just can't get over it. Just looking at the 10 most common occupations for women, where women comprise half or more (and sometimes much more) of all workers in that occupation, men make more, on average, in every single one. Male elementary school teachers - 12% more. Male registered nurses - 13% more. Male secretaries - 17% more. Shifting focus to only women's highest paying fields, the same gap occurs. Male lawyers make 20% more than women. Male doctors make 36% more. And male human resources managers make 21% more. If Mama ain't happy.....
Read the Institute for Women’s Policy Research fact sheet.
May 12, 2009: The "Risky Business" of Single Mothering: If you are a mother, you may one day be parenting alone. More than 1/4 of all children in the United States live with one parent, and in 5 out of 6 cases, that single parent is a single mother. In 2006, the most recent year for which data is available, 44% of babies were born to unmarried women in their 20's. More than 3 out 4 single mothers are in the workforce, and the vast majority of that group works full time. Even so, 37% of single mothers and their children live in poverty. It's a double whammy - women make only about 77% of what men do, and women with children make 10 - 15% less than that. That translates to only $25,000 per year for the typical single full-time working mother. All women are vulnerable to economic insecurity - but single mothers are in a truly perilous situation.
Our friends at Women Work! have published a new fact sheet. You can find it here:
May 7, 2009: It's Not You, It's the System: Child care issues weigh heavily on many women. Often what's available is expensive, and perhaps of dubious quality. Why do mothers struggle year after year, and does it have to be this way? This one hour radio broadcast explains.
May 7, 2009: One Step Closer to Paid Leave: A new bill that would offer 4 weeks of paid leave to new parents employed by the federal government has survived the committee process and could soon see a vote in the House. There was some opposition. One congressman warned that Frankie and Flo Fed would either give birth, adopt, or accept a new foster child year in and year out just to get the four paid weeks, costing the federal government a fortune. Supporters of the bill claimed that retaining workers actually cuts costs, and allows the federal government to compete with other, higher-paying employers for an increasingly limited talent pool.
May 7, 2009: Let's Do the Time Warp Again!: We may be the world's only remaining superpower, but our social policy belongs to another century, when we pretended a mother could depend on someone else to support her and her new baby. Recent months have seen many more mentions of maternity leave and other issues arising from the intersection of motherhood and economics. Here's the latest - the Economic Policy Institute highlights the shameful status of the US as the only industrialized nation with no national paid maternity leave policy.
May 6, 2009: Forbes Magazine Says Moms Want Maternity Leave Benefits: Yes, we do. So skip the Mother's Day candy and flowers - make paid parental leave and family leave minimum labor standards in the American workplace.
May 6, 2009: When You've Got Your Health.....: The recent flu epidemic points out the necessity of paid sick days. When schools close, kids are home, and parents need to be home too. But what if you don't have paid sick leave? What if you can only take it for your own illness? What if you can't afford to miss a day's pay? Millions of American workers have to deal with these problems. The New York Times agrees, the President needs to promote paid sick days legislation. It's a matter of national security.
May 5, 2009: Golden Years?: Who depends more on public benefits in later life, men or women? If you guessed that it's those who perform the majority of the carework in this country, you're right.
Women aged 65 and older are only half as likely as their male counterparts to receive private pension income. However, they are nearly three times as likely to reach age 85, and will suffer more chronic disease and require more medical services. Women are the majority of Social Security and Medicaid recipients. They outnumber men in residential nursing facilities by a ratio of 3:1.
Even with their Social Security benefits, 2.5 million older women live on less than $10,326 per year. By definition, that puts them below the poverty line.
Will you be one of them? Data from IWPR's "Women and Entitlements" Fact Sheet, February 2009
May 4, 2009: Heard on the Hill: The Joint Economic Committee probed reasons behind the persistent pay gap between male and female federal employees in a hearing recently. Chair Carolyn Maloney, a vigorous advocate of work/life reform, deplored the government's failure to be a model workplace on the issue of equal pay. She further noted the various effects of parenthood on men and women. Federal employment data "...previously has found that women with children earn about 2.5 percent less than women without children, while men with children enjoy an earnings boost of 2.1 percent, compared to men without children. So fathers enjoy a bonus, while mothers pay a penalty for their decisions to have children.”
April 15, 2009: More on Family Responsibility Discrimination: The good people at the Sloan Work and Family Research Network and our friends at the Center for WorkLife Law have put together a four page policy brief on family responsibility discrimination. Highly readable, with graphics, pictures, the works!
April 14, 2009: The Two Minute Interview: Parents and Discrimination: Sometimes discrimination happens at work because of bias against those who care for other family members. In recent years, a dramatic rise has occurred in the number of lawsuits alleging Family Responsibility Discrimination (FRD). MOTHERS Advocacay Coordinator Valerie Young talked to Consuela Pinto, Senior Counsel at the Center for WorkLife Law, about FRD and what to do if it happens to you.
April 8, 2009: The Problem with Conventional Wisdom.... ....is that it is often wrong. Joan Williams, founder of the Work Life Law Center, counters three flawed assumptions about the progress of reduced hours, telecommuting, flexible scheduling, and work/life programs getting the ax due to the recession. As is often the case, the REAL story is more complicated, and more interesting.
April 8, 2009: Heidi, Heather, Janet, and Jobs: A few weeks ago, the effect of the recession on work/life policy was the hot topic in Baltimore. Three of the brightest lights on motherhood and economics gave their views on how the pace of change is picking up and the landscape can be permanently altered. Now is the time for paycheck equity and part-time worker parity, precisely because families and children are struggling so. Blogger Girl w/ Pen! gives a recap:
April 8, 2009: Child Care and Jobs - Canada Looks at the Link: Parents over the border can receive 55% of their income while on maternity or paternity leave. Now they argue if that's enough. Not only that, child care advocates say that a recession is exactly the right time for the country to beef up early education programs, as more women are compelled to work and early education is the ultimate infrastructure investment.
April 8, 2009: Expanding "Soft Touch" in the UK: Both the US and the UK have been thinking about "soft touch" laws, which allow employees to ask for a flexible schedule without fear of firing or retaliatory action. Regarded as an alternative to requiring family friendly hours, the UK offers parents of children under 6 the right to ask, and requires the employer to consider but not comply. An expansion of the rule will soon extend the right to ask parents of children under 16, in spite of objections that businesses are already on the brink from a shrinking economy. A "soft touch' bill was introduced in the US Senate last year, but made no progress.
April 7, 2009: Babies at Work: In the absence of paid maternity leave, is bringing your baby to work a viable option? Here's a discussion on NPR to listen to.
April 7, 2009: Is Paid Family Leave Worth $7 a Month To You?: California Congressman Pete Stark has introduced legislation establishing family leave insurance paid for by minimal contributions from both workers and their employers, less than $7 per month. That doesn't seem too high a price to MOTHERS for job security while attending to critical family needs, like a parent's terminal illness or the birth or adoption of a new baby. Rep. Stark makes his case here.
April 7, 2009: Preparing for the Pitter-Patter: If springtime means a new chick in your nest, take a look at this article from work/life experts on how to prepare for maternity leave. You may or may not quality for FMLA, and in the US there really are no good options. So prior planning is essential. Get the 411 here.
March 31, 2009: The Silver Lining:Can offering employers a tax credit for giving employees paid time off during this recession really stimulate the economy? We'd love the chance to find out! Money would be circulating, and the US could ease its way into a more balanced and economically secure work/family model. Here's the plan.
March 31, 2009: Family Responsibility Discrimination: Has this happened to you? You are interviewing for a job, and the question is asked: Do you have children at home? We call it maternal profiling, and it is a form of gender-based sex discrimination. Asking such a question, or denying a woman a promotion on the basis that she has children at home, can make an employer legally liable under the Civil Rights Act and other federal and state statutes. Here's a new case unfolding in Maine.
March 31, 2009: Avoiding Layoffs: Rather than losing a job completely, some workers and employers resort to less time on the job and more time off to weather the economic crisis. The New York Times hosts an eye opening discussion here.
March 24, 2009: Renewed Focus on Unemployment Insurance: Unemployment benefits are paid by the state, in large part with money from the federal government. Federal rules used to make it very hard for women to receive these benefits, due to their interrupted work histories, family obligations, and variable earnings. The President's stimulus plan changes the rules and makes unemployment insurance available to many more workers who desperately need it, even if they work part-time. This is an affirmative step towards promoting women's economic security, and we're delighted to see it.
March 16, 2009: Obama's Budget Could Do More for Single Moms - By Kelly White,
WeNews commentator, President Obama says we are entering a new era of financial responsibility. Single mothers have always done more with less; they know all about that.But economic solutions rarely focus on how to help them avoid financial crisis. Chicago Foundation for Women and our sister funds in the Women's Economic Security Collaborative are ready to advise the Obama administration and other elected officials on how new policies and reforms will affect single-woman-headed households.
March 13, 2009: Another Country, Not My Own - The European Union is trying to extend the length of paid maternity leave for its members states from 14 weeks to 18 weeks and have new mothers receive full pay. The United Kingdom, which currently offers 90% of salary for 6 weeks, then about $150 a week for 33 weeks, objects. Either scenario is an improvement over the US policy: 12 weeks of unpaid leave, under certain conditions, and only for certain eligible employees. In fact, most US workers don't even qualify, so in reality we have no national guaranteed maternity leave policy.
March 13, 2009: Working for Pin Money? - Before the current economic flameout, pro-maternal employment advocates often faced an uphill battle even starting the conversation. Many legislators believed women went to work for the extras, like the fancy vacation, or the nicer house. As such employment was purely optional, there was no pressure on the public sector to come up with paid leave, sick days, or affordable quality childcare standards.
The current crunch requires many parents, both men and women, to change their expectations and adapt to new demands. The father may unexpectedly find himself at home with the children. The mother may have changed her plan and mounted a full court press to go back to work or increase her hours to compensate for a missing salary. There is no way to dodge the work/family issue now.
March 13, 2009: White House Council on Women and Girls - Change certainly has come to Washington. Just a few years ago, a senior level, coordinated federal effort focused exclusively on the impact of governmental action on women and girls was unthinkable. Now, poof! it exists, prompting some women's advocates to wonder aloud "Am I dreaming? Is this heaven?" This is a four minute interview of Valerie Jarret, advisor to the President and Chair of the Council on NPR:
March 13, 2009: Madame Secretary - While the percentage of women in government is nowhere near our percentage of the population (51%!!), there ARE women in government. It wasn't very long ago that that would have been unthinkable. The Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University keeps track of our progress. Look here to see the women appointed to Cabinet and Cabinet-level positions. Then pick out where your picture will be one day....
March 12, 2009:Yesterday the President announced the formation of the White House Council on Women and Girls. - This is a very high level group comprised of Cabinet Secretaries and the directors of numerous federal agencies. Acknowledging the contributions of women to society, the President intends the council to coordinate a federal response to the issues they face and ensure fair treatment in all matters of public policy. Objectives for the next 12 months include improving the economic status of women, promoting work/family balance within the federal government, decreasing domestic violence both at home and abroad, enhancing access to and quality of healthcare for women and their families.
You can read the White House press release here.
March 11, 2009: Up With Women - Washington Post, When Michelle Obama visits the State Department to speak at the International Women of Courage Award ceremony today at 4 p.m., she won't just be marking the achievements of some brave women or continuing her tour of federal agencies. She'll be part of a new drive across the government toward elevating women's issues at home and abroad.
March 11, 2009: The Mommy Tax Across the Pond - The U.K.'s "Mummy Track"
Other countries deal with the gap between carework and paid work just as we do. This recent article from a British paper notes that not only do women and their households sacrifice individual ecnonomic security once children arrive. The national economy also loses billions of dollars when educated, employable mothers scale back or quit work. With declining birth rates and global competition in a post-industrial world market, we can hardly sacrifice a chunk of our trained workforce. What's the answer?
March 10, 2009: MOTHERS Advocacy Coordinator, Valerie Young attended the Legal Momentum Congressional Briefing on Women’s Economic Security on Friday, March 6, 2009. You can see her and hear the responses to her question by cuing up to 1 hour, 13 minutes on the CSPAN video.
March 10, 2009: North Carolina Debates Paid Sick Days By Jonathan B. Cox, Charlotte Observer, A new bill introduced in the North Carolina state legislature would provide 7 paid sick days per worker per year. The bill is similar to the Healthy Families Act, introduced in Congress most every year since 2000. Local opponents say it unacceptably increases the cost of doing business and would result in workers being laid off. Advocates say 42% of the state's work force have no paid sick days at all, and face a dilemma of working sick or losing their job. They also cite the negative public health impact when food service and hospitality workers come to work sick. No state has yet enacted a paid sick days bill, but the cities of Milwaukee and Washington DC have managed to do so. Fifteen states have bills under consideration now.
March 9, 2009: The Stimulus Plan Was Just the Beginning - President Obama has released his proposed budget for the next fiscal year, and it's a show-stopper. Building on the just-passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, significant funds are dedicated to affordable health care, early education, college affordability, expansion of unemployment insurance, and job training for women, especially in non-traditional jobs. We note with interest the focus on improving pay equity and ensuring that women benefit equitably from stimulus spending. Our colleagues at the National Women's Law Center have prepared a handy summary so you'll know what's at stake. It's all about human needs - could this be the step towards the "caring economy" we've been talking about for years?
March 9, 2009: Wage Gap - It's not news that women earn less than men. We know that women do more than their share of carework, and are therefore much more likely to work part-time or pass up jobs requiring travel or long hours. But even when men and women work the same job, have the same training, and work the same hours, there is still a pay gap. Some of it may be explained away by personal choices. But some of it surely stems from outright discrimination. Look at this link to see just how big the divide is in different occupations. You'll be surprised.
March 9, 2009: The Economy and You - The recession continues to affect more people everyday. Some households may unexpectedly find one or both parents at home when they used to go to work. Of course, the opposite is also true. The economy is moving some mothers into the paid workforce sooner than they'd planned.
March 9, 2009: Keeping Work/Life Programs By Kristen B. Frasch, You might think that a slowdown in business means a decrease in work/family programs...and you might be wrong. Some employers are more amenable to a four day work week or telecommuting proposal as a cost cutting measure precisely because things are tough all over.
Feb 23, 2009: What to Expect from Congress this Year? - Womens Enews article on work/family bills in Congress, how the recession impacts progress of this legislation, and Rep. Schakowsky's efforts to keep the momentum going.....
Feb 2009: FMLA Update - Just before leaving office, the Bush Administration tweaked the FMLA, the only national guaranteed leave available for certain circumstances to a limited number of eligible workers. If family or medical leave is on your horizon, you might want to look here:
Jan 29, 2009: Lilly’s Big Day By GAIL COLLINS, New York Times, A happy ending to the story of one woman who fought against pay discrimination and other stories of women like her who fought so all women can have access to fair pay.
MOTHERS Founder and Mothers' rights advocate ANN CRITTENDEN was there in the White House to witness the signing. Here is her experience.
"It was extremely fitting that the first piece of legislation signed by the new President, who won office with the votes of millions of women, was an act guaranteeing greater fairness to women in the workplace. As virtually every prominent Democrat legislator, Vice President Biden and Michelle Obama looked on, Obama entered the East Room with Lily Ledbetter on his arm. He gave her a genuinely warm embrace and a kiss on the cheek before turning to the business at hand. "I am signing this for my grandmother and for my two daughters," he said (oddly leaving his mother unmentioned). And he credited Nancy Pelosi with getting the bill through the House, noting that it was their first piece of legislation together, the first of many to come. Ledbetter did not speak, but she looked proud and happy to have fought so hard, for a decade, to make sure no one else will have to face the blatant wage discrimination she suffered for almost 20 years.
"Obama seemed to enjoy the occasion, joking playfully that he had been practicing signing; "they told me to do it real slow” changing pens and handing the first pen to Ledbetter. At a reception following the signing, the guests mingled, networked, took pictures, and hardly noticed as their new leader slipped downstairs to get back to work."
Click here to view the video of the signing into law of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act by President Obama.
Jan 28, 2009: Time for Jobs: How Shorter Work Weeks / Work Years Can Be Stimulus By Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research, A worthwhile read! Dean Baker describes why the current stimulus package is not enough and explains steps we can take including shorter work weeks, increased vacation time and health care insurance can benefit companies, employees and the economy.
Jan 22, 2009: Senate easily passes pay equity bill, The Hill - Thanks to your support and the efforts of so many organizations speaking up on behalf of women, the Senate passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act by a 61-36 vote. This bill could be the first one signed into law by President Obama. Lilly Ledbetter was present for the vote and expressed her belief that the bill would become law. To see how your Senators voted click here.
Jan 2009: Ready to Run(tm) CampaignTraining for Women - Women are still totally outnumbered in the US Congress, in spite of a few with solid name recognition. Even after last November's elections, the US is ranked an incredible 69th in the world in terms of percentage of women in national elected office. The situation is not likely to improve either, because the number of women in local and state elective office, our pipeline and training ground, is actually decreasing. We simply must get more women - and more mothers - into policy-making positions.
It's not as hard as you might think, and help is available. Consider campaign training --- Held annually by the Center for American Women and Politics, Ready to Run(TM) is a bi-partisan program for women who want to run for office, work on a campaign, get appointed to office, become community leaders, or learn more about the political system.
Jan 16, 2009: The policy potential of a mom-in-chief By Ellen Goodman, The Boston Globe
Contemplating the possibilities of changes to work and family life policy with Michelle Obama as First Lady
Jan 15, 2009: Interview of Karen Kornbluh by Bonnie Erbe appearing in US News & World Report
Jan 2009: Valuing the Invaluable: The Economic Value of Family Caregiving, 2008 Update
“The costs of caregiving to caregivers themselves are more than a simple accounting of hours. They include direct out-of-pocket expenses, economic insecurity caused by changes in work patterns, and health effects.”
Dec 28, 2008: She's a Kennedy, But She's a Lot Like Us, By Anne Glusker, Washington Post - While she may hold notable, political status and the concerns that cross her mind include matters most of us would never be exposed to, Caroline Kennedy is not immune to the prejudices and scrutiny that most women in the United States have to deal with when considering re-entry into the workforce after taking time away from their career pursuits to focus on caring for their children.
“When we talk about women going back into the workforce, it's illuminating to consider the circumstances under which they left it in the first place. For many women, it was never truly a choice, never truly voluntary. As Pamela Stone, author of ‘Opting Out?: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home,’ points out, many are pushed out by jobs with long hours, rigid workweeks and inflexible demands. ‘These women haven't opted out,’ says Stone. ‘They've been shut out, by workplaces that don't pair well with family life.’"
Dec 26, 2008: First Lady: A Job Worth A Paycheck, By Lauren Stiller Rikleen, Washington Post - “First lady. First mom. Mom in chief. No -- none of these titles works. And therein lies the problem.” This article discusses the responsibilities and work that our First Ladies have always been involved in, while the position has never been recognized as a real job in any formal way.
Dec 10,2008: Zero To Three Celebrating Improvements in Infant and Toddler Policy: Top 10 Policy Achievements of 2008
Farm Bill Reduces Food Insecurity and Improves Nutrition Programs
Colorado Early Childhood Caucus Brings Attention to Infnat-Toddler Issues
Virginia Creates Office of Early Childhood Development for Children Birth to Five
Higher Education Act Reauthorization Makes Professional DEvelopment of the Early Care and Education Workforce a Priority
Dec 2, 2008:Unionization Substantially Improves the Pay and Benefits of Women Workers
Gains from union membership large, even compared to benefits of college education.
Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) A new report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) documents a large wage and benefit advantage for women workers in unions relative to their non-union counterparts. The report, "Unions and Upward Mobility for Women Workers," found that unionized women workers earned, on average, 11.2 percent more than their non-union peers. In addition, women in unions were much more likely to have health insurance benefits and a pension plan.
Nov 2008: Valuing the Invaluable: The Economic Value of Family Caregiving, AARP Policy Research 2008 Update This AARP Public Policy Institute Insight on the Issues by Ari Houser and Mary Jo Gibson presents recent data on the economic value of family caregiving at the national and state levels and summarizes findings about costs to caregivers and how caregiving helps contain health care and long-term care costs.
Nov 30, 2008: 'First mom' has other roles, Maggie Jackson • Boston Globe “When Michelle Obama wrote this month that her number one job as first lady would be to be a mom, eyebrows were naturally raised. After all, she's a smart, Ivy League-educated lawyer who worked most recently as a top hospital executive. Is she really opting out, stepping down, making pajama parties her new main aim in life? Or is she trying to make clear that she's not Hillary Clinton, whose aggressive public role in crafting ultimately failed healthcare reform as first lady turned many against her? Obama's controversial message deserves some dissecting, for it's one that our daughters and sons are hearing, too. Certainly, the mantra "family comes first" is valid, especially in a country that provides so few public or private supports for working families. There are times when we need to dial down or take time from work to care for a sick or disabled relative, or to compensate for the absence of a partner or spouse. While very few women can afford to step completely away from the labor force, all women - and men - deserve flexible work that respects their life as a parent or caregiver."
Nov 28, 2008: More Men Take the Lead Role in Caring for Elderly Parents
John Leland, New York Times
“When Peter Nicholson’s mother suffered a series of strokes last winter, he did something women have done for generations: he quit his job and moved into her West Hollywood home to care for her full time. Since then, he has lost 45 pounds and developed anemia, in part because of the stress, and he is running out of money. But the hardest adjustment, Mr. Nicholson said, has been the emotional toll.”
Nov 6, 2008: Women's Vote Clinches Election Victory: 8 Million More Women than Men Voted for Obama, Institute for Women's Policy Research
Nationally, 56% of the women's votes were for Obama and 49% of the men's votes were for Obama. Nationwide, it is estimated that Senator Obama received 35,900,000 votes from women and 27,800,000 votes from men.
Dr. Heidi Hartmann, founder of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, said that "This 7-point gender gap combined wtih women's greater turnout was a major factor int he election's results. The same is true in some key battleground states, where women were also the majority of voters."
Nov 6, 2008: House Races Push Women's Numbers to New High, Women's eNews The number of women in the U.S. House of Representatives will reach a high of 74 when the victors of the elections take office in January. While there was a gain of 3 legislators, women's stake was not pushed into the 20 percent territory considered minimal for exerting significant voting bloc pressure.
Nov 6, 2008: Gender Gap Evident in the 2008 Election - Women, Unlike Men, Show Clear Preference for Obama over McCain, Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) Rutgers
Oct 15, 2008: 1 in 4 Working Families Now Low-Wage, Report Finds By Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post Staff Writer
The ranks of low-wage working families increased by 350,000 between 2002 and 2006, raising their numbers to nearly 9.6 million, or more than one in four of the nation's working families with children.
The report by the Working Poor Families Project, an advocacy group that analyzed census data, defined low-wage families as those earning less than double the poverty rate. For a family of four, that would have been an annual income of $41,228 or less in 2006. The report's author, Brandon G. Roberts, attributed the increase to the growth in low-paying jobs, from health-care aides to cashiers, that form an increasing share of the nation's service-based economy.
Oct 8 2008: Women’s Policy, Inc. (WPI) is has posted the 110th Congress At-A-Glance, a wrap-up of legislative activity important to women and their families.
Sept 23 2008: Senate Panel Examines Effects of Equal Pay Case
On September 23rd ,the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing, "Barriers to Justice: Examining Equal Pay for Equal Work."
Sept 19 2008: The Economic Crisis and Its Disproportionate Impact on Women and Families, Sara K. Gould, President and CEO of the Ms. Foundation and an expert on women's economic development, warns that the plummeting U.S. economy will further threaten millions of women whose lives already hang in the balance.
Sept 11 2008: To Work or Not? By Mary Carmichael | Newsweek Web Exclusive
A new study finds that children of privileged families fare worse when the mother works outside the home. But what does the research really tell us?
Sept 16, 2008: What Women Want Poll Findings: Women Are Worried About the Future and Believe Government Must Act, According to a recent poll by the National Women's Law Center, women feel the impact of economic insecurity and rising food, energy, education, and health care costs more deeply than men – and see government as a key to the solution.
Sept 8, 2008: Improvement at a Glacial Pace, Women hold 35% of all governor appointed posts in state leadership positions, rising only 7% in the past ten years. Still underrepresented in top policy positions, numbers are up in 36 states. But only six states have a percentage of women in senior state positions on a par with the percentage of women in the population. Women hold less than a quarter of the top state jobs in four states. Of note is researchers' finding that women governors are not more likely to appoint female staff than male governors.
Here is the report from the Center for Women in Government & Civil Society at the University at Albany,
You can also read an article from the Seattle Times discussing the report.
Sept 8, 2008: Opted-out/Pushed out?, UC Berkeley. Do professional women leave paid employment upon becoming mothers because they want to, or do work environments influence the decision to exit the labor force at motherhood? UC Berkeley releases its finding on 1000 Harvard graduates with professional degrees 15 years after they entered the workforce to see who is still getting a paycheck. MD mothers - 94% still working, the highest percentage. Who's out? MBA mothers, 28% of whom have called it a day, at least for now. You can find the report here.
Click here for the recent BusinessWeek article about the report.
Spoiler: Turns out that work environments DO influence the decision. Surprise!
Sept 8, 2008: Paid Sick Days in Ohio, Members of Ohioans for Healthy Families, an advocacy group that supported the sick-day mandate, said they have agreed with a request by Gov. Ted Strickland to keep the issue off the November ballot and avoid a negative and divisive campaign fight.
Sept 5, 2008: "Unemployment Jumps to 6.1 Percent, Women Hit Hardest", Center for Economic and Policy Research. The new unemployment figures offer no good news In fact, women's employment has dropped so much that we are making the headlines. And workers between the ages of 35 and 44 have had the biggest jump in unemployment. Clearly, the economy is beyond dispute a "woman's issue".
Also see the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities one-pager on the August employment report.
September 2, 2008: Cracked, Not Shattered, Guernica/a magazine of art & politics: Interview with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, which we think will make you feel very well informed, and strengthened.