Double Booked: A Fair Shot for Women
By Neera Tanden
I started working in Washington, D.C in 1997 for then First Lady Hillary Clinton on domestic policy. I worked on work-family issues like child care and after school back then and have kept up on the topic ever since. But the sad fact is that at the national level we haven’t had significant advances in policy on work-family issues since the passage of the Family Medical Leave Act in 1993. That’s why when I became President of the Center for American Progress I started a new women’s initiative that focuses on women’s economic needs, as well as reproductive health and leadership issues.
It only takes a quick look at the numbers to know why we as a country need to be doing better on behalf of women. The majority of mothers work, whether married or single. Women are the primary or co-breadwinners in 60 percent of families with children. The United States is the only developed country that does not guarantee that workers have the paid leave they need when they have a baby or need to care for a sick family member. Right now 88 percent of workers lack access to paid family leave and 34 percent don’t even have paid sick days. The average woman still only makes 77 cents on the dollar compared to a man. We account for only 4 percent of the CEOs at Fortune 500 companies.
In order to better fight for the policies that will help women get ahead, we joined together with American Women, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and Service Employees International Union to launch the Fair Shot Campaign: A Plan for Women and Families to Get Ahead.
The Fair Shot agenda includes fighting for women’s economic security, women’s health and women’s leadership. We want to make sure women earn what they deserve and that our workplaces are responsive to working families. We want women to have access to the health services that they need. And we want women to be leaders in workplaces, in the government and beyond.
I know how having flexible policies matter because they’ve mattered so much to me in my career. I went to work on Hillary Clinton’s campaign team when I had two small children at home. Like many women I was juggling career and family, diapers and conference calls. As hard as it was, I had it better than most. I have a wonderful husband who truly believes in co-parenting and I had a boss who was committed to family-friendly policies. I remember Hillary reorganizing her schedule so I could go to my daughter’s pre-K graduation. Unfortunately for most women, family-friendly workplaces are the exception instead of the norm. I definitely won the boss lottery, but women shouldn’t have to have the luck of a great, understanding boss to be good parents and good workers.
I know that the challenges are many, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. That’s why on June 23, 2014 the White House, the Department of Labor and Center for American Progress are teaming up to host a Summit on Working Families (www.workingfamiliessummit.org). The summit will help lift the debate on policies like paid family leave and paid sick days. We will be engaging with businesses, economists, labor leaders, policymakers, advocates and the people on the frontlines of this debate – the working families who are struggling to get ahead.
If women received equal pay, we would cut the poverty rate for working women and their families in half and the U.S. economy would produce $447.6 billion in additional income. More than ever, ensuring the success of women and working families will ensure the growth and success of our businesses, our economy and our society.
Neera Tanden is the President of the Center for American Progress and Counselor to the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Tanden has served in both the Obama and Clinton administrations, as well as presidential campaigns and think tanks.
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