Policy Update: June 26, 2015

Policy Update: June 26, 2015

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

Dozens of members of Congress, 44 to be exact, have sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell asking for specific guidance regarding the obligations of health insurers to cover lactation services and supplies. Recent reports issued by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) reveal numerous occasions of insurance companies not following the relevant law, contained in the Affordable Care Act, or being unaware of the law’s requirements. Kudos to the NWLC for bringing this issue to light, and kudos to the legislators who are trying to address it.

Motherhood can be dangerous to your health. Maternal mortality rates are much higher in the US than in similarly wealthy nations, and amazingly they are increasing. “It turns out that here in America women are dying or nearly dying during pregnancy and childbirth at rates more than double those of 25 years ago. In fact, we rank 64th in the world in maternal mortality, and an estimated 60,000 women suffer life-threatening emergencies (called “near misses”) every year,” according to the Huffington Post. Clearly motherhood is not the health priority that it should be in this country.

New York State has passed a law to allow pregnant women to sign up for health insurance to cover the birth, which is not typically allowed. “Currently, if you become pregnant, want to carry the pregnancy to term but are uninsured, you’re out of luck where coverage is concerned until the baby is born. That’s because becoming pregnant is not a qualifying life event under Obamacare, though “changes in family size,” such as divorce, marriage, or having a baby, are included” reports RH Reality Check. Prenatal care and delivery set some families back financially for years, and can cause bankruptcy, if a family doesn’t have insurance coverage.

Could paid maternity and paternity leave really happen in the US? Yes, but it’s not because legislators have suddenly woken up or voters have become insistent. According to the New York Times, help for the middle class and competing for workers may be moving the needle. “Long a pet Democratic cause that seemed hopelessly far-fetched, paid leave suddenly seems less so. With pay for most workers still growing sluggishly — as it has been for most of the last 15 years — political leaders are searching for policies that can lift middle-class living standards. Companies, for their part, are becoming more aggressive in trying to retain workers as the unemployment rate has fallen below 6 percent.”

Something sure needs to change. This headline says it all: America Has the Worst Family Leave Policies Of Any Developed CountryNot a surprising conclusion, because the US has no nationally guaranteed statutory program, as workers in most every other country do.” America is at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to family leave policies, according to findings from a Pew Research Center report. Of 38 nations, including Mexico, America ranks dead last for weeks of paid leave and protected leave.”  As in, zero.

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

Photo: gettyimages

Policy Update: June 19, 2015

Policy Update: June 19, 2015

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

Significant news this week – and all of it is good!*

Oregon is the latest state to pass a paid sick leave bill!  The new law requires businesses with 10 or more employees to give 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked to their employees, to a max of 40 hours, or 5 days, per year.  The bill also prohibits retaliation or discrimination against a worker who uses the sick leave.   The bill also clarifies that employers have to provide, within reason, private spaces for women to breastfeed, and may not discriminate against women who choose to do so at work.    Now there are 4 states with paid sick leave – California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts recently passed their own bills.  The national bill, titled the Healthy Families Act, continues to languish in Congress.

New York has had state laws protecting breastfeeding mothers for years.  But so few mothers knew about them, employers frequently didn’t comply.  To remedy that, the state legislature has passed the “Breastfeeding Mothers Bill of Rights,” to be posted in health care facilities, nurseries, and post-delivery rooms in hospitals.  It clearly states that all mothers have the right to take breaks for breastfeeding or pumping milk at work.  Additionally, employers have to provide appropriate spaces for breastfeeding, and may not take action against women who do so.

Pennsylvania’s Governor wants to use a new way to bring down the rate of incarceration – making preschool available to thousands more children.  Fighting crime doesn’t usually involve early education, but the Governor cites a stack of data showing that there is a strong link between preschool and completing high school, a smaller chance of being arrested and going to prison.  Based on a projected return on investment of $26,000 per child enrolled, researchers estimate a savings to the state of over $350 million.

*Wait – I lied!  It’s not ALL good.  Here’s a downer – women are still a minority in all state legislatures around the country.  In fact, there were more women in Nebraska’s assembly 20 years ago than there are now.  Why should this be, you ask?   One expert says “… that women are expected to do more and be more to meet the same goals as men.”  Yet the benefits of having women at the table are known.  Different voices, different perspectives, lead to better policies for everyone, according to this article in the Columbus Telegram.  And it has a cool map, so you can find out the percentage of women in your state’s leadership.

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

 

Photo: © Robhainer | Dreamstime.com

 

Policy Update: June 12, 2015

Policy Update: June 12, 2015

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

More incremental progress on the paid leave front this week.  Billionaire businessman Richard Branson has decided to grant some employees one year of paid parental leave.  It will be available to both mothers and fathers at Virgin Management in London and Geneva, about 140 employees altogether.   Branson cites his experience as a father and grandfather, as well as business productivity, as reasons for his decision, according to The Washington Post.    “As a father and now a granddad to three wonderful grandchildren, I know how magical the first year of a child’s life is but also how much hard work it takes.”  Amen, brother!  For those of us in the US, however, the outlook remains bleak.  Observes HuffPo, “That said, the United States, as the only developed country with no guaranteed paid parental leave for mothers or fathers, has a long way to go.”

Oregon has moved its paid sick days bill through the state Senate on a 17 – 13 vote along party lines.  If it survives the House, it will provide 5 annual paid sick days to workplaces of 10 or more employees.  Oregon could be the fourth state with paid sick days policy, behind California, Connecticut and Massachusetts.  Two cities in Oregon, Portland and Eugene, have already instituted paid sick days programs.  Currently, it is estimated that about half the private sector workforce and 80% of low income workers don’t have even a single paid sick day.

Chipotle announced plans to increase benefits to all workers, even part-timers, starting July 1.  Paid sick days, paid vacation, and tuition reimbursement will be served up to its 53,000+ employees.  The Healthy Families Act, which would institute paid sick days nationwide, is stalled in the US Congress, so some states and businesses are moving forward alone.  The benefits to public health when food service employees can avoid spreading infectious diseases by staying home may not be obvious to our elected leaders.  But it’s clearly good business.

Child care allows parents to go to work.  High quality, affordable child care is a two generation economic stimulus program.  In the long term, it sets kids up for maximal academic achievement and the development of soft skills, like resilience, sharing, cooperation and grit.  In the short-term, parents can focus on work when they know their children are safe and in developmentally appropriate environments.  But in the US, child care is treated like a personal problem rather than a basic minimum labor standard.  In some states, some low income families get some help from state programs, according to this article from the  New America Foundation.

And to wrap up and  head us into the weekend, let’s remember that the double standard is alive and well!  “Researchers found when a female employee clocks out before the work-culturally acceptable time, her colleagues are more likely to think: She’s probably off to pick up her kids. If a male employee checks out early, they may think: He’s off to meet clients” says the Washington Post in Why women are judged far more harshly than men for leaving work early.

Please make sure to check out my post for Brain Child Magazine on What’s A Mother Worth? and let me know what YOU think in the comments.  Thanks!

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

 

Photo: DopledPhoto: Dreamstime.com – Pregnant Mother Working In Home Office With Son Photo

What’s A Mother Worth?

What’s A Mother Worth?

By Valerie Young

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Every mother saves her family thousands of dollars by performing services in unpaid domestic labor for free.

 

At first glance, family life in our private homes seems far removed from economic news in the business section of our newspapers and media outlets. Markets, profits, and the workforce belong in one world. Family dinners, carpools, and laundry belong in another. Transactions involving money are endlessly measured, analyzed, reported, recorded and publicly discussed. But making a place for people to live and grow, and creating the care required for them to thrive, does not. There is a rich irony here, as the original meaning of the word “economics” is household management. Strange, then, that we draw such a line between the consumption and production that takes place within our families, and what happens on the other side of the front door. What could we learn if we used business measures to determine the monetary value of a mother?

Our homes are all about the allocation of limited resources to satisfy multiple and sometimes competing demands. The management of a home, the provision of family care, involves consumption of goods and the production of services. When we look at motherhood through an economic lens, we learn valuable information about the costs and returns of investments we make. These investments involve money, certainly, but they also involve time and energy and effort. Raising children is one such investment. Its return is the fully functional, educated and tax-paying citizen, the productive member of society, which results.

From time to time articles appear estimating the value of the services a mother provides. Most such estimates are based on buying these services on the open market. This replacement cost approach tallies up the expense of paying somebody else to provide the transportation, cooking, cleaning, laundry, health care, child care, home maintenance and household financial services a mother performs for free. The total varies, of course, as the cost of living does from state to state, or urban versus rural areas. In recent years, the grand total has been placed at $113,586 by Business Insider, to $150,000 by The Independent. Salary.com says $118,905. So, every mother saves her family thousands of dollars by performing services in unpaid domestic labor for free.

Of course, it’s not free to the woman who’s doing the work. If she cuts back on her employed hours, or steps out of the paid labor force entirely, the value of the wages, benefits, and future social security payments she is surrendering, she is in fact paying an opportunity cost. This is another way to calculate the value of a mother, and the numbers this calculation generates are much higher than replacement cost. (Remember, domestic labor when done by another is poorly paid. Child care providers and direct care workers, the compensated form of domestic labor, are low income workers, and usually have no paid leave or paid sick day benefits at all to take care of themselves.)

Opportunity cost goes up and down depending on the education of the woman and the field in which she would otherwise be employed. Ann Crittenden, author of The Price of Motherhood, estimated that a college educated woman gave up about $1 million in wages, benefits and retirement income if she had a child. Forbes worked out the opportunity cost for an elementary school teacher who stops working when she gives birth and came up with $700,000. In more general terms, it’s reasonable to go with an opportunity cost of at least several hundred thousand dollars all the way up to $1 million, as suggested by the experts at Babycenter.com. Clearly, if opportunity cost is the measure, a mother’s worth can skyrocket.

So, why do women make the choice to get out or cut back on paid work to raise their children? It can be the most costly decision a woman ever makes, and will affect her economic security for the rest of her life. There’s more than one reason, of course. I suspect many mothers just want to. So much of a child’s development, up to 90% of neurological growth, occurs in the very first years. The huge cost of child care may equal or exceed a mother’s income. We still labor under the cultural myth that the best caregiver for a baby is its mother, and it’s more socially acceptable for a mother to be the primary caregiver than the father. In 60% of two earner homes, the mother earns less than the father. If someone must assume the primary caregiver role, drafting the lower earner makes economic sense. US workplaces are notoriously inflexible. Lacking a middle way where caregiving and wage earning can be successfully combined, many women are backed into a corner and face an intolerable choice: either work for a living OR raise your children, but never both. Many women forge ahead with their careers, only to find that a country without paid leave, paid sick days, and discrimination against both pregnant women and mothers running rampant makes no allowance for their family obligations. They may then “opt out” of the work force, but in reality there is much less choice than the “opt out” label suggests.

What needs to change here is the attitude that running households and raising children is unskilled, unproductive work. Mothers make people, and people are the most basic economic element. Babies are consummate consumers. They grow to be producers – of everything! Without children, there is no economy, and no future. We know that the value of family care to elders saves public spending and, if compensated, would be worth around $450 billion a year. The US economy’s GDP for 2014 is estimated at upwards of $17 trillion. If mothers’ uncompensated labor – in birthing, nursing, and raising children, and the myriad activities that involves – were tallied up, estimates place its value at between 21% and 50% of GDP. Nancy Folbre, a Professor of Economics at UMass Dartmouth and frequent past contributor to the New York Times Economix blog, places a conservative estimate at 25% of GDP. So that means that mothers’ unpaid domestic labor actually adds between $4 trillion and $8.5 trillion to the economy. Every. Year.

Not only that – in tax dollars alone, the future taxpayers these women raise will contribute their taxes to our public coffers. Each mother, in addition to her own unpaid labor and the profits it brings to the economy, is responsible for another $200,000 going into the US Treasury in taxes collected from her child.

So, please, let’s not say we are “just” stay at home moms. Don’t think that our only contribution to society is our compensated work. We don’t deserve less, do less, or are worth less because we are mothers. In fact, we are the greatest producers in the entire economy. We must know our worth, and cherish our value in its totality. We must insist that ALL we do, both the compensated and uncompensated labor, be respected, accounted for, and valued in all our private and public interactions and institutions.

Valerie Young is a public policy analyst for Mom-mentum, a non-profit organization providing leadership, education, and advocacy to support mothers in meeting today’s personal and professional challenges. Formerly an attorney, Valerie now blogs about the effect of family carework on a woman’s economic security and advocates women’s empowerment at Your (Wo)Man in Washington, and covers policy news for Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers.

Photo: gettyimages

 

Policy Update: June 5, 2015

0529pregnancyA quick look back at events this week impacting women and families, from Valerie Young, a public policy analyst with Mom-mentum.

I’ve just come back from a gala luncheon downtown of women’s advocates and funders.  US Secretary of Labor Tom Perez gave the keynote speech, framing paid family leave as an economic imperative and essential element of national growth and prosperity.  He told about meeting a school bus driver with no paid maternity leave.  After her Caesarean, she went right back to driving the bus, strapping the infant in a car seat behind her, for fear of losing her job and the income her family needed.  “There is something wrong with this country” Secretary Perez said, when millions of working moms and dads have no paid family leave.

He is on to something.  Newsweek published an article this week, Why Are Young Moms Becoming Rarer?  Obviously the trend is the result of multiple causes, but there are two that get my attention.  First, it’s becoming widely known that the US seriously lags other countries in pro-family policies like paid family leave, earned sick days, and quality affordable child care.  Second, as women go further in educational attainment, they are carrying heavier student loans, which push marriage and homeownership further into the future.  Whatever the reason, it’s beyond question that having children later means having fewer of them, and that trend will affect everybody.

I simply cannot remember a time when breastfeeding so consistently popped up in the news.  The Huffington Post has picked up the breastfeeding-in-airports story, which you saw first right here in last week’s mothernews summary.  Hundreds of comments and thousands of “likes” have followed. the HuffPo piece.  Then a story about a man complaining about a woman breastfeeding at a café in Australia becomes world news, with stories generally lauding the café manager who asked the complainer to leave.  Maybe a mother-friendly world really is around the corner…

The Economist has a reputation for providing very serious analysis of very business-oriented news.   That’s why eyebrows were raising all over when a recent issue included the following title: “A Father’s Place -Men have long been discouraged from playing an equal role at home. That is at last starting to change.”  It’s a summary of what governments all over the world are doing to remove the gender-normed attitudes around child care, how public policy can encourage equality of opportunity at work, and how children are better served by having both parents really involved in the first months.

And another women’s glossy magazine picks up women’s rights content this week. ELLE published For the Price of Your Morning Latte, You Can Put More Women in Office, addressing the pervasive practice of women donating to charities while men donate to political campaigns.  Women-operated super PACs, like Women Lead and Emily’s List, are looking for the $5 donor as much as the $500 or $5000 donor.  “Every dollar is meaningful… It’s about more than just the money. The fact is that people are participating. We need to have more women participating—whether they’re writing checks or voting or running for office or supporting other women running for office. Every little bit matters.”

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

Photo: Newsweek

Policy Update: May 22, 2015

Policy Update: May 22, 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.

Breastfeeding has been going on since the dawn of time, yet it still causes all sorts of heated exchanges when it happens in public. Mothers are pushing back via social media. The Washington Post reports: “Sometimes, these days, instead of meekly acquiescing and feeling like second-class citizens, mothers will use the weapons at their disposal—namely social media—to turn the shame on its head and feed it right back to the business. This changes the companies’ struggle from a one-on-one customer battle of “rights” to a publicly discussed and judged incident of a business treating a customer as less than.”

The price of child care keeps going up, putting more and more pressure on family budgets. New data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that child care costs more per year than annual in-state college tuition in 31 states. In a single mother household, it eats up 40% of the average annual income. That’s a major policy failure.

Chicago’s political leaders are pressing on for earned sick time. The current proposal follows a program adopted in nearly two dozen other US cities and 3 states, one hour of paid time off for every 30 hours worked, for “personal or family illness or preventive care; due to an incident of domestic violence or sexual assault; or because of school or building closure due to a public health emergency” according to the Chicago Sun Times. As pointed out in the article, what good is organic food if it’s coughed and sneezed on?

There is talk more often now about paid family leave, as if this basic labor standard in most of the world has finally registered in the American consciousness. Considering the number of families pitched into hard times following a birth, illness, or other major health event, it is a subject worthy of attention, especially as we move closer to national elections in 2016. Is the real issue the reluctance to give women a reason to choose paid work over unpaid domestic labor, as argued in this excellent New Republic article Taking Care of Our Own;  Paid leave goes from progressive pipe dream to political reality. Or, as women are 49.3% of today’s workforce, are incentives, at this point, irrelevant?

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

Policy Update: May 8, 2015

Policy Update: May 8, 2015

black-woman-nursing-300A quick look back at events this week impacting women and families, from Valerie Young, a public policy analyst with Mom-mentum.

Colorado has passed a state law excusing breastfeeding mothers, if they so choose, from jury duty for up to two consecutive 12-month postponements. That state now joins 17 other states and Puerto Rico with exemptions or postponements under these circumstances. Why isn’t this possible in all 50 states?

The US Army has no breastfeeding policy, and that’s a problem. Recently at a military base in Idaho, an order was issued that required “mothers breastfeeding in public areas on base relocate to a private room, use a nursing cover or leave the premises” according to Military Times. An uproar ensued, and now members of the US House of Representatives want clean, adequate facilities with electricity, and specify that “restroom facilities” are not appropriate.

Have trouble finding the right place to breastfeed your baby or pump? This is such a common problem in our culture which is so conflicted about women generally and breasts in particular. But don’t worry—there’s an app for that! Two mothers in New York have come up with Moms Pump Here, a locator for nursing and lactation rooms, where you can find a spot or add a good place you’ve found. They also have information about pertinent legislation for handy reference. Mothers helping mothers—that’s what it’s all about.

Boston’s City Council moved paid family leave forward for city employees with a unanimous vote. As the US Congress has failed to pass a federal paid family leave bill so far, states and municipalities are doing it alone, and with success. The Boston bill now goes to committee and will have a hearing this summer.

Do you ever get the feeling that the US talks a lot about family values, but doesn’t really follow through? The annual State of the World’s Mothers Report from global charity Save the Children ranks the US 61st in terms of maternal health, behind every other industrialized country. In starkest terms a US mother is more then 10 times as likely to die from a pregnancy related condition or childbirth than one in Austria, Belarus, or Poland. Women get more education and do pretty well, economically, in comparison to 178 other countries around the world. But we compare very poorly in terms of women’s political representation, and maternal and infant health. Perhaps if more women were in policy-making positions, we’d keep more new mothers and babies alive.

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

Policy Update: May 1, 2015

Policy Update: May 1, 2015

24-kissing-couple-baby.w529.h352.2xA quick look back at events this week impacting women and families, from Valerie Young, a public policy analyst with Mom-mentum.

Massachusetts moves on paternity leave –  Already in effect is a new law which requires firms with 6 or more employees to give new father 8 weeks of paternity leave, unpaid.  Why is this significant?  Because paternity leave has the potential to shift the division of household labor years after the baby is born, good for the marriage, family economic security, and the mother’s pay parity.  “A variety of researchers have looked at this question, and what they’ve almost uniformly discovered is that fathers who take paternity leave are far more likely to assume more household responsibilities further down the road, thereby helping to diminish the possibility of future marital strife.”  So says Jennifer Senior, author of All Joy and No Fun, in New York Magazine.

The world’s largest private equity firm, Blackstone Group LP, is extending its paid maternity leave from 12 to 16 weeks at full pay, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Why such a  move?  To be more competitive in attracting top female talent, and increase the percentage of women in its ranks.  Smart move.

Last month, the Cincinnati Reds announced the opening of a very comfortable lactation room at the baseball stadium to make it easier on families and breastfeeding mothers.   Now, my very own Washington Nationals have gone public with plans for a “state of the art” nursing facility to replace the designated conference room with no view of the action.  Play ball, y’all.

Getting geared up to go on maternity leave, and want to make the very most of it?  There’s an app for th– no, wait, not exactly.  It’s a webinar, not an app, by Lori Mihalich-Levin of Mindful Return. and  you can watch it here.

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

Photo: Jessica Peterson/Getty Images

Policy Update: April 24, 2015

Policy Update: April 24, 2015

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

Happy Friday – the weekend is here, and so is the rundown on family policy news.

It’s Women’s Health Week. Don’t forget to take care of yourself while you’re taking care of everybody else.  A quick checklist from the US Office of Women’s Health will keep you on track.

New data keep coming about the importance of the earliest years in brain development, and how intelligent policies can support families with young children and really pay off when they become adults.  Nick Kristof takes a look in this New York Times article.

The campaign to get a woman on the $20 bill is gaining steam, and four finalists have been selected.  Send in your vote for Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Wilma Mankiller, or Rosa Parks right here.  My fave, Shirley Chisholm, sadly didn’t make the cut.

The US Breastfeeding Committee has released state fact sheets.  The benefits are legion, but it can be complicated by personal factors and a lack of support.  Practically every state has a coalition if you need resources. Find your fact sheet through this page.

Following last week’s White House push for pro-family policies, the President reminds us that nothing will get better unless we go public with our stories and insist on  solutions.  There is just no substitute for sharing stories and coming together around common frustrations.  You have a role to play – don’t sit on the sidelines for yourself and your family.

Image courtesy of Women on 20s

photo (662x800)Follow Valerie on Facebook (Your (Wo)Man in Washington) and Twitter (@WomanInDC) and find her on the blog at Mom-mentum.

Policy Update: April 17, 2015

Policy Update: April 17, 2015

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In this photo taken April 1, 2015, Jen Psaki,, right, and Katie Fallon, pose at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

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

There have been several interesting developments this week from the intersection of motherhood and public policy.

President Obama sat down to talk about equal pay, paid family leave, and what he hopes for his daughters at a live-streamed Town Hall in Charlotte NC.  Never in the history of the Republic has the Chief Executive spent so much time so publicly engaged on issues of family caregiving, women’s rights and economic status.  You can watch a video recording or follow the tweets #ObamaTownHall, #womenslives, and #equalpay.

The US Department of Labor wants you to know exactly what your legal protections are if you are pregnant or nursing and employed.  They’ve updated their interactive map, so you can find out at a glance what federal and state laws apply to you.  The DOL also released a wonderful infographic showing how far into their pregnancies mothers stay on the job, and how quickly they come back after giving birth.

There are two pregnant women working in the White House – another first for motherhood and politics.  One of them, Communications Director Jen Psaki, was pregnant when she was hired.  She had concerns.  “Instead McDonough — and later Obama himself — assured Psaki they would accommodate her needs as a new mom amid the West Wing’s nonstop demands. She started in the post Wednesday and is one of two pregnant women serving as assistant to the president — a first for such a top level adviser in Obama’s presidency and practically unheard of under previous presidents.”

Equal Pay Day arrived this week, marking the gap between men’s and women’s wages even when both work full time and year round.  Controversy ensued – some say the pay gap is a myth.  There can be no debate, though, about the fact that women are the majority of those in poverty, and woefully under-represented in public office, in the C-suite, on boards of directors, and the upper echelons of the professions even though we are more educated than men and comprise half the workforce.  The National Partnership for Women & Families released a great report, which includes data on the pay gap between mothers and others, much larger than that between men and women generally.

 

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

 

 

Policy Update: February 27 2015

Policy Update: February 27 2015

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

The Hill was buzzing with discussion about families and the mismatch between the way we live and work now versus our policies that reflect another era altogether.  Senator Patty Murray and US Representative Tulsi Gabbard took turns at the microphone during a congressional briefing on women’s health and economic security this week.  Hosted by the National Partnership for Women & Families, the legislators spoke to a packed crowd about the urgent need for paid leave, closing the pay gap between men and women, protecting pregnant workers on the job, providing a tax credit for second earners (usually mothers, working around their care obligations) and access to reproductive health care like contraception.

Brigid Schulte wrote in the Washington Post about the part-time workforce and the lack of any paid time off, in spite of an overwhelming need.  Most of the part-time workforce is female, and many resort to part-time work so that they can provide care to children or dependent adult family members.  However, paid time off for illness or emergency is not available to the vast majority of part-timers.

Make sure to take 4 minutes and watch this great video from the Make It Work campaign – parents rock, in spite of ridiculously and unnecessary obstacles.  I promise – you’ll love it!

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

Photo: The Washington Post: (The Image Bank/Getty Images)

Policy Update: February 13, 2015

Policy Update: February 13, 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.

Senator Patty Murray and Representative Rosa DeLauro introduced the paid sick days bill, the Healthy Families Act, again this week.  If enacted, the bill would provide employees at workplaces with at least 15 workers 7 earned sick days per year, for their own illness or to care for a sick family member.  Smaller businesses would be required to grant workers 7 days of unpaid sick leave.  Currently, 43 million US workers have no access to a single paid sick day.  More than a “woman’s issue”, earned sick leave is a matter of public health, family economic security, and employment policy.  Here’s a fact sheet with greater detail.

Following the President’s call for paid family leave, including maternity and paternity leave, articles have been zipping around the ether about how it would serve new parents, newly born and adopted children, bolster business and grow the economy.  A recent favorite is a Raw Story piece about our disconnect between “family values” and our woeful public policies.  Noteworthy is the fact that every other industrialized country has already implemented paid parental leave.  Why not the US?  Because the vast majority of our lawmakers are white males who have never served as family caregivers, which leads to the next item….

There are just too few women in Congress, especially the current Congress which began its work last month.  According to Quartz:  “Instead, the US ranks 75th in the world in women’s representation. Standing alone, US Democratic women would be ranked 27th in the world, similar to countries such as Austria and Germany. Conversely, Republican women’s representation, which is currently 11% of Republican seats, would hold a ranking of 116th in the world, alongside countries like India and Jordan.”  More women in politics means better public policy.

Do you think childcare and early education matters are personal issues, with implications only for the family?  There’s more to consider, as data establishes that how and with whom a child spends time in the earliest years will make a difference in the family’s economic security for decades to come, and the child’s educational achievement, income and health.  Childcare is actually a multi-generational economic issue, according to Catherine Rampell in this Washington Post op-ed

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

 

Policy Update: January 30, 2015

Policy Update: January 30, 2015

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

We’re still feeling the lift from the President’s mention of the critical need for pro-family policies in the State of the Union Address.  Advocates are working harder than ever to push Congress towards paid leave, and a bill has been introduced to secure 6 weeks of paid parental leave to federal employees to make permanent the recent executive order which only lasts as long as this Presidency.  It will still be a long slog, so for good news I look further afield.

Tacoma, Washington is the latest locality to pass an earned sick days bill.  Splitting 8 to 1, the city council passed a bill offering 3 days of paid leave in the employee’s first year and 5 days in the 2nd.  The leave may also be used in cases of stalking or domestic violence.  Three states have enacted paid sick days laws (Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts), and 16 cities have followed suit.  Even so, about 40% of workers put their jobs on the line if they stay home with the flu or take a sick child to the doctor.

The World Health Organization has released a report stating that breastfeeding benefits the health of mother and child while it occurs, and benefits for the child for many years after in both health and cognitive function.  Ironically, without paid maternity leave for every mother, millions of us will never reach the 1 year breastfeeding mark set by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Even with legal protections in the Affordable Care Act and some state laws, the benefits to employers of a good lactation set up are being ignored, according to  The Horrors Of Pumping Breast Milk At Work (And Why Employers Should Care)

Ever wonder if you’re doing the right things as a parent?  You don’t have to be perfect; just work in these daily family routines, from the experts at the Council on Contemporary Families, relying on data from the US Census Bureau.

A Swedish photographer is directing his lens to dads on paternity leave.  While Sweden prioritizes parental time with newborns in its public policies, there’s great variation in who uses it and for how long.  By law, parents of a newly born or adopted child have up to 480 days of leave.  And it’s paid.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Policy Update: January 23, 2015

Policy Update: January 23, 2015

Polic Update GraphicBefore we shift into weekend mode, here’s a quick look back at events this week impacting women and families, from Valerie Young, a public policy analyst with Mom-mentum.

The President definitely placed paid family leave, pay equity, earned sick days, and childcare at the center of national economic priorities in his State of the Union address.  This unleashed a deluge of discussion.

***

State of the Union – The President asked Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act for seven earned sick days per year per worker to protect the job security of workers who are also family caregivers.  He placed access to affordable childcare as a basic family security issue, and dismissed its characterization as a marginalized “woman’s issue.” He did the same for paid leave, so that new birth or adoptive parents could bond with their children, while maintaining their workforce connection.  He also insisted that women’s compensation should be protected with a pay equity bill, to close the gender-based wage gap.

Dear President Obama: What About Parents Who Stay Home? – A lively discussion around this topic erupted on BlogHer with tons of comments from all perspectives.  The range of opinions shows our deep ambivalence about the worth of motherhood and the work of parenting, and the extent to which society benefits from the children we raise and the policies we need.

Who Is Deciding These Policies, Anyway? – Most of the people drafting and passing our laws are male and aren’t the ones with primary caregiving responsibility.  It goes a long way to explaining the how and why of our current family policies like childcare/early education, workplace flexibility,  or paid leave programs. Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics has a wealth of information.

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

 

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

Sunday News Update: September 28, 2014

Sunday News Update: September 28, 2014

BC Logo_SquareWelcome 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 formerly National Association of Mothers’ Centers.

With mid-term elections now on the horizon, the members of Congress have scampered home to look after their seats.  Your (Wo)Man in Washington is still at her post, however, and sends us this summary of weekly highlights.

We haven’t seen this before – the US Department of Labor is promoting paid leave with this video, comparing Germany’s 14 weeks of maternity leave to the US’s 0 weeks.  Because a national standard is such a heavy lift in this country, the DOL’s Women’s Bureau is also channeling big money to 3 states and the District of Columbia to fund feasibility studies for state-wide paid leave programs.  Labor Secretary Tom Perez says “We need to do more to give people the tools to be responsible employees and good caregivers, so they don’t have to choose between the families they love and the jobs and economic security they need.”  It’s a start.

Are women’s magazine waking up?  (We know Brain, Child has always been awake: ) See what you make of some of these issues covered in mainstream women’s magazines this week: Elle just posted Why Women’s Role in Politics Is More Important Than EverGlamour has come out with Motherhood, Penalty Begone and Vanity Fair invites you to Watch Emma Watson Deliver a Game-Changing Speech on Feminism at the U.N.  Maybe there IS more to life than a model search of Fall’s “must have” accessories.

There may be more to the pay gap than what happens at work.  In fact, the disparity may start much, much earlier, according to the New York Times Motherlode blog, and parents could be implicated.  “While it’s true that plenty of discrimination exists in the workplace, the way we rear our daughters probably contributes something to the persistent wage gap that exists among adults.”  Something to think about.

Follow Valerie on Facebook at Your (Wo)Man in Washington, and on Twitter @WomanInDC. Valerie went to a feminist  conference in New York City last weekend. See her thoughts at Mom-mentum’s Your Woman in Washington blog.

 

 

 

Sunday News Update, September 21, 2014

Sunday News Update, September 21, 2014

Valerie Young HeadshotWelcome 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 formerly National Association of Mothers’ Centers.

After moving the Paycheck Fairness Act forward last week, the US Senate killed it this week, falling 8 votes short of the 60 needed to keep it going.  Cited by the Republican opposition is the bill’s protection of workers who discuss their compensation with colleagues from retaliatory action by their employer.  Without wage transparency, it’s hard to know if discrimination is occurring.The Senate’s action was particularly disappointing as the latest poverty data, from the US Census Bureau and released this week, shows that women still make far less than men, even when employed full time and year round.  The pay gap narrowed by one cent, but is still  yawning 22%. Wages are totally flat, and the poverty rate is not decreasing at all.  Sigh.

A whole panel of female members of Congress, Hillary Clinton,  and other women wonks had a great discussion Thursday morning at the Center for American Progress under the title Why Women’s Economic Security Matters To All.   Everything came up – child care as economic policy, pay equity, family leave and sick leave, women in public office—it was all on the table.

Hillary Clinton is under a lot of scrutiny, and her comments at the event were parsed to see if her intention to run in the next presidential election could be discerned.  The New York Times devoted a whole article just to what she said – even though all that political estrogen in one room is newsworthy in and of itself.  “The difference women and men face in getting the kinds of jobs that will provide the kind of income they need for themselves and their families is roiling beneath the surface of the political debates,” Mrs. Clinton said, according to the New York Times.

Parting shots:

From US News:  “Even though it’s the biggest economy in the world, the U.S. falls far behind other developed countries when it comes to requiring pay during sick days, which advocates say could improve productivity, boost morale, support public health and even enhance a business’s bottom line.”Can you avoid hitting the motherhood penalty?  Flexjobs.com has some suggestions—but they won’t make an immediate fix.

When applying jobs, don’t think you actually have to possess all the requirements listed.  Other applicants don’t.  A fabulous article from the Harvard Businss Review, Why Women Don’t Apply For Jobs Unless They Are 100% Qualified.

Until next week…

Follow Valerie on Facebook at Your (Wo)Man in Washington, and on Twitter @WomanInDC. Valerie went to a feminist  conference in New York City last weekend. See her thoughts at Mom-mentum’s Your Woman in Washington blog.

Sunday News Update: August 10, 2014

Sunday News Update: August 10, 2014

BC Logo_SquareBy Valerie Young

Welcome to Brain, Child’s Sunday wrap up of policy issues impacting women and children with Valerie Young of the National Association of Mothers’ Centers.

Think we are gaining ground in the effort to remove the barriers between motherhood and equitable treatment at work?  Bad news:   The Wage Penalty For Becoming A Mother Is The Same Now As It Was In 1977.

“According to a new report from the Council on Contemporary Families, since 2006, more people have been letting go of traditional attitudes toward gender roles—where the mom is expected to stay home while the dad works—and are viewing moms who work outside the home and participate in politics more favorably.” Now if we could turn that approval into some paid family leave, so that all working people can deal with life’s normal complications and support their families financially too, we’d be golden.

Who takes the big hit for having kids?  Moms do, according to US News & World Report, because the way we do work in this country makes it an all or nothing proposition. “Professional women often end up opting out because it simply feels impossible to take care of both family and work responsibilities,” Lovejoy says. “The decision was often unexpected and unplanned,” she explains. When Stone and Lovejoy followed up on these opt-out women 10 years later, they found two-thirds of the women had returned to work, but to different types of work that offered greater flexibility – and lower pay.”

State legislators in New Jersey can’t deliver paid sick days – so advocates will make it happen city by city.  Organizers are collecting signatures to get the issue on the ballot in November, according to the New York Times.

Valerie Young writes about news at the intersection of motherhood and public policy. Follow her on Facebook at Your (Wo)Man in Washington, and on Twitter @WomanInDC, and find a weekly blog post at WomanInWashington.org.

 

 

 

Sunday News Update: September 7, 2014

Sunday News Update: September 7, 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 (Formerly known as NAMC)  National Association of Mothers’ Centers.

It’s back to school and back to work in the nation’s Capital.  With the mid-term elections coming in November, no one expects much to be going on even though Congress is back in session.  However, notable events are occurring elsewhere.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is languishing in the US Congress, but the states are having more success protecting pregnant women at work.  Illinois has passed a pregnancy workplace protection law that will go into effect next January.  New Jersey, Delaware, and West Virginia also recently passed similar bills.  Their aim is to keep pregnant women on the job as long as possible, and prevent employers from forcing them onto unpaid leave or firing them unnecessarily.

California has become only the second state in the Union to pass a paid sick days bill, which should bring some relief to the 44% of its workforce with not a single paid sick day.  Now employers are required to offer at least 3 paid sick days per year to all workers, except those direct care workers who tend to the elderly and disabled in their homes.  They are not covered by the bill.

Gender always makes a difference…..and it’s a big one in terms of who cares for elderly parents more, sons or daughters.  “Women spend as much time as they can caring for their elderly parents, while men do as little as they can, according to a new study” reported by Think Progress.

I see tired women….in this series of charts from the US Department of Labor about the employment of moms and dads according to income, age of children, job sector, and family status.  In every category, the majority of mothers are employed, as are the majority of fathers.  Whether single or married, America’s parents are tapped out, and when moms come home they are still working, they just don’t get paid for it.  How similar, or different, is your situation from most of Americans?  Check ’em out.

Follow Valerie on Facebook at Your (Wo)Man in Washington, and on Twitter @WomanInDC, and find a weekly blog post at WomanInWashington.org.

Sunday Night News Update: July 27, 2014

Sunday Night News Update: July 27, 2014

BC Logo_SquareWelcome to Brain, Child’s Sunday night news update where we look at policy issues impacting women and children with Valerie Young of the National Association of Mothers’ Centers.

With Congress half out the door on the way to their August vacation,  two bills were dropped in the hopper that could  make life better for moms.  The Schedules That Work Act would require employers of part-time workers to give more notice of shift schedules and assignments so that workers could plan accordingly.  Much of the part-time workforce is mothers, as noted by Senator Elizabeth Warren in this article from The Guardian:  “A single mom working two jobs should know if her hours are being canceled before she arranges for daycare and drives halfway across town to show up at work…This is about some basic fairness in work scheduling so that both employees and employers have more certainty and can get the job done.”  Amen, sister!

Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska and Senator Angus King of Maine get a cheer for  introducing a bill that would give a tax credit to employers offering at least four weeks of paid family leave.  It’s called the Strong Families Act, and will likely go nowhere with the recess coming up and the mid-term elections getting all the attention once our do-nothing Congress reconvenes in September.  But it is an effort to deal with the fact that ONLY the US has no guaranteed paid time off for maternity or paternity leave.  In the 21st century.  With women half the labor force.  Sheesh.

Most states have some sort of laws on the books protecting pregnant or breastfeeding workers.  Does yours?  Here is a handy resource from your friends US Department of Labor.  Just click on your state on the map and see what rights you have.  Pregnancy discrimination runs rampant, and employers often fail to provide new moms what’s required, because we aren’t aware of and don’t ask for what the law allows.  Don’t suffer endlessly. Know your rights.

Some parting thoughts on issues that often concern women with children who work – How do I tell my boss I’m Pregnant?  Not an endorsement, just one person’s experience, from GoGirl Finance, as well as a series of articles on negotiating your salary, and three important tips to keep in mind when discussing your worth, from the same site.

Valerie Young writes about news at the intersection of motherhood and public policy. Follow her on Facebook at Your (Wo)Man in Washington, and on Twitter @WomanInDC, and find a weekly blog post at WomanInWashington.org.

 

Sunday Night News: July 20,2014

Sunday Night News: July 20,2014

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Welcome to Brain, Child’s Sunday night news update where we look at issues impacting women and children. Tonight we hear from Your (Wo)Man in Washington, Valerie Young of the National Association of Mothers’ Centers:

A few key things happened last week in political momland that you should know about:

First, the bill that Democrats tried to get through Congress to avoid the effect of the US Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision failed.  Called the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act, it would have prohibited employers from invoking their religious beliefs  to avoid federal law requiring coverage of contraceptive costs.  CNN predicts that the issue will figure prominently in the November elections.

A Tennessee law that allows a pregnant woman to be charged with assault if she is found to have narcotics in her system  was applied for the first time to a woman who tested positive when her child was delivered.  Advocates of the bill say it protects fetuses and infants.  Critics say it makes it less likely that addicted expectant mothers will ask for the help they need.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued an official “guidance” regarding discrimination against pregnant workers, still astonishingly common even decades after such behavior was made illegal.  Many women do not know their rights and find themselves forced onto unpaid leave, or fail to receive reasonable accommodation to continue their work.  NPR has an article and audio, and you can go right to the source at the EEOC.

Police arrested the mother of a 9 year old who was allowed to play unsupervised in a public park while her mother was at work at McDonald’s.  The child was placed in foster care.  The child typically sat in the restaurant when her mother worked, playing on a laptop, but their home had recently been burgled and the laptop stolen, so the child asked to go to the park instead.  Reports unleashed a veritable firestorm in the media.

Valerie Young writes about news at the intersection of motherhood and public policy. Follow her on Facebook at Your (Wo)Man in Washington, and on Twitter @WomanInDC, and find a weekly blog post at WomanInWashington.org.

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Sunday News Update: July 13, 2014

Sunday News Update: July 13, 2014

 

BC Logo_SquareWelcome to Brain, Child’s Sunday night news update where we look at issues impacting women and children. Tonight we hear from Your (Wo)Man in Washington, Valerie Young of the National Association of Mothers’ Centers.

Frankly, after such a busy week on the motherhood-and-politics front, we could certainly use some down time at the beach or star gazing on a quiet night.  Sigh.  Not likely.  Here’s how it all played out:

Right before July 4th, the US Supreme Court handed down its decision in the Hobby Lobby case, relieving a for profit corporate employer from following certain provisions of the health reform law regarding contraception because of religious beliefs.

This past week, Democrats in both the House and Senate introduced a bill to counter that decision, called the Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act of 2014.  The bill states:  “The purpose of this Act is to ensure that employers that provide health benefits to their employees cannot deny any specific health benefits, including contraception coverage, to any of their employees or the covered dependents of such employees entitled by Federal law to receive such coverage.”

Also in the bill dropping department, US Rep. Nita Lowey of New York introduced legislation to credit the Social Security accounts of family caregivers with a modest income for a limited number of years that they spend raising children, caring for aging parents, or ill or disabled family members, instead of paid employment.  You can listen to a 30 minute recording of a tele town hall Rep. Lowey held on Tuesday night to get the details.

Minnesota passed a law to prevent the shackling of women in prison when they give birth as reported in RH Reality Check.  Unbelievably, shackling during labor continues in 30 other states.  “Additionally, the shackling ban makes Minnesota the 20th state with such a ban on the books. But many states still allow the shackling of pregnant women, including during labor. The American Medical Association has called the practice of shackling women during childbirth “barbaric” and “medically hazardous.”‘  And still it occurs…

Not one but TWO articles this week on the “valuable, difficult and irreplaceable” work of  the “housewife,” one in Dame Magazine and another at Slate.com, which notes that “it’s really difficult to have two working parents with full-time jobs, because home life requires a lot of necessary man-hours and a huge emotional investment, too.”

Valerie Young writes about news at the intersection of motherhood and public policy. Follow her on Facebook at Your (Wo)Man in Washington, and on Twitter @WomanInDC, and find a weekly blog post at WomanInWashington.org.

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