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“You Are Not Alone”

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"“You Are Not Alone”"

The Quotes That Capture The White House Summit On Working Families

Yesterday, the President, Vice President, First Lady, and Dr. Biden all came together to participate in the White House Summit on Working Families, the first public event they have all taken part in since the second Inauguration. The Summit, co-sponsored by the Center for American Progress and the Department of Labor, was focused on elevating the ongoing national conversation about making workplaces work for everyone and ensuring that women have a fair shot to help their families succeed.

Here are some of the quotes that capture the ideas, discussion, and takeaways from the summit:

President Barack Obama: “Family leave, childcare, workplace flexibility, a decent wage — these are not frills, they are basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses. They should be part of our bottom line as a society.”

Labor Secretary Tom Perez: “We’re living in that Modern Family society but we’re still stuck in Leave It to Beaver rules!”

Senior Adviser to the President Valerie Jarrett: “For a while we’ve been talking about the glass ceiling, but you know what, it’s the sticky floor that’s the problem!”

Mark Weinberger, Chairman and CEO of EY (formerly Ernst & Young): “Women don’t want to be singled out, and men don’t want to be left out.”

CAP President Neera Tanden: “In terms of family flexibility, there has been no policy change in 20 years at the federal level. I think this is truly one of the issues where the country has moved farther and faster than the political discourse.”

Activist Gloria Steinem: When it comes to leadership, women “need to question what we’re imitating. It’s not like we’re going to imitate what’s there. We’re going to transform what’s there.”

Actress Christina Hendricks: “I’ve been honored to play Joan Holloway Harris on [Mad Men], who has faced discrimination in almost every aspect of her job, simply because she’s a woman. Her assignments, her paychecks and even her office are diminished compared to the male workers. It’s time for that story to go away, the way of the rotary phone and the typewriter, because our ability to support our families should be based on talent, hard work and responsibilities… In the 21st century, the only place where a story like Joan’s should be is on TV.”

Vice President Joe Biden: “Family friendly policies reduce turnover and boost performance… It’s about creating policies that allow your worker to balance family and work. If you give it a shot, I think you’ll find the return is overwhelming.”

President Barack Obama: “All too often, these issues are thought of as women’s issues, which I guess means you can kind of scoot them aside a little bit. At a time when women are nearly half of our workforce, among our most skilled workers, are the primary breadwinners in more families than ever before, anything that makes life harder for women makes life harder for families and makes life harder for children. When women succeed, America succeeds, so there’s no such thing as a women’s issue. This is a family issue and an American issue — these are commonsense issues. This is about you too, men.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi: “It’s not that women are better than men. The beauty is in the mix. It creates better policies.”

First Lady Michelle Obama: “This should be one of those issues that galvanizes this nation. Because, again, it knows no race, no socioeconomic background, no religion. It’s something that we all should be able to pull around, but we all have to be out there pushing this forward. And that is my hope for today, that this is just the beginning of an important conversation that’s going to continue for years and years to come until we’re finally up there with other leading nations who’ve had amazing work-family policies for a much longer time. There’s no excuse for America to be following on this issue. We should be leading on this issue.”

In his remarks, President Obama also observed that the issues facing working families are “not partisan until they get to Washington.” A new poll released by CAP in association with the summit proves it:

  • More than 7 in 10 respondents—71 percent—support paid family leave for workers who have a child or an immediate family member who gets sick, including 62 percent of Republicans.
  • Three-quarters support a minimum number of paid sick days per year, including 65 percent of Republicans.
  • Policies that would enforce equal pay for equal work get the support of an almost-unanimous 92 percent of Americans, including across-the-board support from 98 percent of Democrats, 87 percent of Republicans, and 88 percent of independents.

BOTTOM LINE: Today, half of both working mothers and working fathers say that it is difficult to balance work and family needs. But many feel that this is a personal failing. “Part of the point of this summit is to make clear you’re not alone,” Obama said. “These problems… can’t just be fixed by working harder or being an even better parent. All too often they are the result of outdated policies.” Many of these proposals would take federal lawmakers to do something. As we saw yesterday, there is broad support for these issues and enormous energy behind them. Pay attention, Congress: it’s time to get to work.

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