Market Watch just published an article, Family-friendly policies? In the U.S., not so much by Ruth Mantell that, in the wake of an attempted repeal of the health-care reform law by a newly Republican-lead House of Representatives, broadly reviews U.S. policy impacts on our country’s “family friendliness” (i.e. breastfeeding laws, maternity leave, etc). In short, new breastfeeding laws mandate that employers provide time and space for breastfeeding mothers to pump breastmilk. In terms of family friendliness, this is a small step in the right direction; however, we have yet to establish federal laws that mandate paid maternity leave or family leave. Such laws or lack thereof disproportionately effect women as we often take on a greater domestic roles in comparison to men.
Policies such as these weigh heavily on the “gender wage gap”. An article entitled, The Anti-Mommy Bias by Nancy Folbre, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, states that, “…family responsibilities still weigh more heavily on women than on men, accounting for much of the pay gap between the sexes“. She illustrates this point by telling the following story:
In a telling episode last December, Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania praised the appointment of Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona as secretary of Homeland Security, “because for that job you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19-20 hours a day to it.” Governor Rendell did not realize his microphone was on. He later explained that he has no life either.
Gov. Wendell is not alone in his thinking and this type of thinking presents a conflict. How can we overcome gender wage gaps if our policies are outdated and employers still favor those who can work around the clock? Women, how will we balance the demands of career ambitions/employment and family? If evidence shows that women carry a greater burden of domestic responsibilities, why do U.S. policy makers not inact policies that are more woman and family friendly? Under our current system, what sacrifices are women FORCED to make in order to support our families?
Let’s dialogue about this…comments?