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Policy Update: March 20, 2015

BC Logo_SquareA quick look back at events this week impacting women and families, from Valerie Young, a public policy analyst with Mom-mentum.

So much happening this week,: In legislative news, the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act of 2015 was introduced in Congress by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and  Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.  Funded by employees and employers at about $2 per week, it is designed to give new parents, or those who must care for a family member with a serious illness, injury or disease, job-protected paid time off to keep them connected to the labor force while attending to critical family needs.

Coming soon will be a bill preventing an employer from punishing or firing an employee if he or she requests a flexible work schedule.  According to Huffington Post:  “The legislation, called the Flexibility for Working Families Act, would not force employers to grant such arrangements, but it would require them to discuss the possibility of one with the worker and take it under consideration. If the employer determined that flex time or telecommuting was untenable, it could decline to grant it to the worker.”

Virginia’s governor has signed into  law a measure protecting a woman’s right to breastfeed “in any public place where she is legally allowed to be.” Before this law was passed, a mother’s right was only protected if she was on property owned or controlled by the state.  Now, only breastfeeding in Idaho and South Dakota will get you banished, or worse, relegated to a public bathroom.

At the same time, new data on the benefits of breastfeeding continues to emerge. In addition to promoting the health of mother and child, The Lancet published the results of decades of research showing breastfeeding the first year is strongly associated with higher IQ, educational attainment, and income at age 30.  Don’t take this news as a reason to stress if breastfeeding didn’t work out for you. But do take it as evidence that what mothers do matters tremendously, and has serious positive economic consequences for the future.

And saving the best (or most egregious?) for last….the very latest number crunching reveals that US women will achieve pay parity with men in…drumroll, please..2058!  Unless of course you live in Wyoming, where the pay gap won’t disappear until 2159.  The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has produced some very specific data that’s highly interactive and will tell you much.  From the Daily Beast: “As the group notes in its findings, at the current rate, not even millennial women will see wage equality during their working lives.”  What does this mean for you, exactly? Jump over to the World Economic Forum’s super cool Gender Gap Calculator.  Maybe if we weren’t still discussing whether breastfeeding could occur in public, or whether family caregivers should be able to care for loved ones without losing their jobs, we’d get to fair pay sooner.

Follow Valerie on Facebook (Your (Wo)Man in Washington) and Twitter (@WomanInDC) and find her on the blog at Mom-mentum.

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