Former State department official Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece in the Atlantic, entitled “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” has set off a fire-storm of discussion about women and men in the work force. Whether you agree with Slaughter, Salon writer Rebecca Traister (who takes on Slaughter’s arguments), or facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg (who has provided advice on this topic), there are certainly policy solutions that would address the problems facing parents in the modern workplace. Here are four policy ideas that could help America’s government and businesses keep up with its families:
1) Paid Family And Medical Leave Insurance: In spite of the fact that all of the adults in most families are employed, the United States is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee workers paid parental leave, and one of only a handful that does not provide other types of paid caregiving leave. The Center for American Progress’ proposal for paid family and medical leave would increase women’s employment and promote gender equity.
2) Paid Sick Days: Nearly 4 in 10 working women do not have access to paid sick days and female-dominated industries are the least likely to offer paid sick days, in spite of the fact that women are the most likely to need to miss work to care for a sick child, partner, or parent. The Healthy Families Act would provide workers with the right to earn paid sick days to recover from their own short-term illnesses or to care for an ill family member.
3) Right To Request Workplace Flexibility: Discrimination against workers with family caregiving responsibilities is illegal throughout Europe, but not in the United States, where workers also lack the ability to request workplace flexibility without retaliation. Modeled on similar legislation in the U.K. and Australia, the Working Families Flexibility Act would allow workers to request flexible working conditions without fear of negative consequences, and would ensure that employers take those requests seriously.
4) Equal Pay: Women are more likely than men to withdraw from the workforce to provide family care, in part because they tend to earn less money than their male partners. Some employers justify paying women less because they fear their female workers will leave in order to stay home. The Paycheck Fairness Act would help empower women to demand equal pay, and would make it harder for employers to discriminate against women.
73 percent of the country’s moms are working, and it is about time that policy took into account this important change in the makeup of the workforce.