Sunday News Update: October 26, 2014

Sunday News Update: October 26, 2014

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Welcome to Brain, Child’s Sunday policy update where we look at issues impacting women and children with Valerie Young, Public Policy Analyst for Mom-mentum.

The mid-term elections are less than two weeks away.  Early voting has already started in some jurisdictions. If you’re worried about actually making it to the polls on November 4, you may have other opportunities between now and then.  Check out this interactive map to find out what’s available where you live.

Women can influence the presidential election in 2016 by showing up for the midterms now.  Strategists will be looking to see how we vote, and which party attracts the most unmarried women, who make up the gender gap and are numerous enough to determine the outcome.  Candidates know it’s not just reproductive rights that women care about, but economic issues too, like equal pay, paid leave and the minimum wage.  If these issues bring women to the polls now, we’lll be in a stronger position in the next campaign cycle.

There’s no shortage of problems in need of policy solutions.  Our lack of paid leave is a big one, and affects millions of families every year, as shown in this series of graphics from Surprising Statistics That Prove Family Leave Is Broken in the United States on BlogHer.  One important fact is that the Family Act, the bill for paid family leave insurance (like maternity and paternity leave) is not paid for with public funds. It’s an earned benefit financed by through payroll deductions of about $2.00 per week per worker. Many still think it would increase public spending.

Workplace flexibility is another area ripe for legislative attention.  It’s much more common for men to have access to it (80% according to this Working Mother Magazine survey). This data suggests fathers believe in sharing both childcare and household chores equally with their wives, reports Nanette Fondas in The Parent Trap on The Weekly Wonk.  They will certainly need flexibility to make that 50/50 split a reality.  And 39% of those survey respondents are willing to go further, stating they’d rather be stay at home dads.

What mothers need in order to participate in the paid labor force is a serious question.  According to Heather Boushey at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, women’s entry into the workplace pushed up national economic productivity by 11% in 2012.  It also significantly raised household incomes. Future economic growth will require women’s ability to maximize their income potential at work while caring for children and other family members at the same time. Men’s greater involvement on the home front is a part of this.  Revising employment law to facilitate the family care duties of workers, and protect them from discrimination, is another.

Follow Valerie on Facebook at Your (Wo)Man in Washington, and on Twitter @WomanInDC