Tag Archives: Employment

Pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: Bring the Workplace to the 21st Century

By Amal Bass, WLP Staff Attorney

Women are often surprised to learn that they do not have as many rights in the workplace as they expect to have in the 21st Century. More often than not, an employer does not have to grant a pregnant woman’s request for a minor job modification, such as a chair or help lifting heavy boxes, which some women need as their pregnancies progress. As a result, pregnant women who could have worked with a reasonable accommodation lose their jobs and find themselves without economic security and without health insurance at a time when access to health care is essential.

Existing anti-discrimination laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), and similar state laws like the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, prevent employers from treating pregnant women differently from non-pregnant employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work.  But these laws do not protect pregnant employees in nearly as many situations as they should.

For example, courts have ruled that the PDA does not offer a pregnant employee legal protections unless she can identify a non-pregnant employee (1) who works in the same role, (2) has virtually the same limitations, and (3) is treated better by the employer than the pregnant woman.  Many pregnant employees are unable to identify such a person, often because they simply do not know what kinds of accommodations their employers have granted to other employees or what limitations those other employees have. Furthermore, some courts have allowed employers to refuse to accommodate pregnant employees even when they accommodate non-pregnant employees with similar limitations, if those limitations are work-related.

While some states have laws that protect these pregnant employees better than the current federal law does, Pennsylvania does not.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would fill this gap in the law on a national level, ensuring that pregnant women who are able to work with reasonable accommodations can keep their jobs. S.942 was reintroduced on May 14, 2013 by Senators Bob Casey and Jeanne Shaheen and Representatives Jerrold Nadler, Carolyn Maloney, Jackie Speier, Susan Davis, and Marcia Fudge, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would:

  • Require employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees who have limitations on the job related to their pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition, unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer.
  • Prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who need an accommodation.
  • Prohibit employers from forcing a pregnant employee to accept an accommodation she does not want.

Prohibit employers from forcing a pregnant employee to take unpaid or paid leave if a reasonable accommodation is available.

If passed, this law would help pregnant women stay employed, promoting the health and well-being of mothers and their families, while imposing only a minimal and temporary burden on employers.

One woman who would have benefited from a law like this — a woman who lives in Pennsylvania and called the Women’s Law Project for help — worked at a garden center and needed help lifting heavy plants while pregnant.  Her employer refused her request, and she had no choice but to leave her job.

Women should not have to make a choice between having a healthy pregnancy and keeping their jobs. It’s time to change the law.

Please contact your Representative and Senator to tell them that they should support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

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Filed under Employment, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Discrimination Act, pregnant workers fairness, Reproductive Rights, Women's health

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: Press Conference Tomorrow

Tomorrow, September 14, 2012, U.S. Senator for Pennsylvania, Bob Casey, will announce the introduction of a companion bill to the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 5647) at a press conference at 10:30 AM (in the large conference room at 2000 Hamilton Street, Philadelphia).  If you plan to attend the press conference, please RSVP to ecusack@maternitycarecoalition.org.

In the post below, the Women’s Law Project discusses the need for this legislation, which, if passed, would ensure that pregnant workers have the right to reasonable accommodations if pregnancy limits their ability to perform certain job functions.

Reposted from 5/8/2012:  The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Offers Hope for Women in the Workplace, If Congress Passes It

“Tina,” who is pregnant and works as a health aide in a nursing home, is told by her doctor that she should not lift more than 35 pounds.  Her job description requires lifting 40 pounds regularly, but lighter duty jobs, such as answering the phone and working at the reception desk, are available.  Nevertheless, her employer stops scheduling her for shifts and tells her she must take unpaid Family Medical Leave, which would run out before the delivery of her baby and leave her without the income she needs to pay the 50% of her medical insurance her employer does not cover.  Left with no choice, Tina loses her job.

“Jessica,” who is pregnant and works as a pharmacist’s assistant, needs to sit down occasionally throughout her day.  Chairs are available for customers, but the pharmacy does not permit the staff to use them.  As a result, Jessica loses her job.

For women like Tina and Jessica, whose stories are based on the experiences of real women who have called the Women’s Law Project, current anti-discrimination laws often do not go far enough.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), prevents an employer from treating a pregnant woman differently from how that employer treats non-pregnant employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work.  Some courts, however, have limited the protections of this federal law by requiring pregnant employees to identify a non-pregnant employee who works in the same role and has almost identical limitations but is treated better by the employer in order to succeed with a lawsuit.  Some courts even permit employers to refuse to accommodate pregnant employees when they accommodate non-pregnant employees because pregnancy is not a work-related condition.  In short, despite the PDA, pregnant women are often treated differently from other employees with similar limitations.

Other laws do not provide better protections for pregnant women. Courts interpret the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) similarly to Title VII/PDA.  In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees, usually does not apply to women experiencing ordinary pregnancy.

A handful of states have laws that prevent employers from terminating women from employment or forcing them to take paid or unpaid leave when a reasonable accommodation is available, but Pennsylvania is not one of those states.  As a result of this gap in the law, many pregnant women in Pennsylvania, like Tina and Jessica, find themselves unemployed suddenly, without economic security and often without health insurance at a time when access to health care is crucial.

For Pennsylvania’s pregnant women and for women in many other states, the proposed federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would offer important workplace protections.  Introduced on May 8, 2012 by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and other representatives in the House, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would:

    • Require employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees who have limitations on the job related to their pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition, unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer.
    • Prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who need an accommodation.
    • Prohibit employers from forcing a pregnant employee to accept an accommodation she does not want.
    • Prohibit employers from forcing a pregnant employee to take unpaid or paid leave if a reasonable accommodation is available.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act, which has been in effect for over two decades.  Thus, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act employs a familiar framework that simply requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations that do not present an “undue burden.”  If passed, this law would help pregnant women stay employed and maintain their economic security and benefits, promoting the health of mothers and their families, while imposing only a minimal, temporary burden on employers.

Please contact your representative and tell them that they should support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.  To call your representative, dial 202-224-3121 and tell the operator the name of your representative.

For more information on this bill, take a look at the National Women’s Law Center’s Fact Sheet.

To learn more about the effects of sex bias and discrimination in the workplace on women’s health, see WLP’s report, Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women.

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Filed under Gender Discrimination, Health Care, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Women's health

Women’s Law Project Releases Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women

The Women’s Law Project (WLP) released today a major report, Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women, linking sex bias to adverse health outcomes in women.   The release of this report coincides with National Women’s Health Week (May 13-19th), during which time organizations around the country are raising awareness about the benefits of the health care law.

Inspired by the public debate on health care, WLP embarked on an examination of the relationship between the sex bias that women experience and their health, resulting in the publication of Through the Lens of Equality.  “As familiar as we were with ongoing bias and discrimination against women and with data on critical health measures for women, our in-depth examination of the linkage between the two truly shocked us,” said Carol Tracy, Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project.  “The focus is on Pennsylvania, however, the finding and recommendations have nationwide application,” she added.

“For all of the years that I have been involved in women’s rights and women’s health care, I have never seen the connections between health and equality more dramatically demonstrated that it is in this report,” said Kate Michelman, former President of NARAL Pro-Choice America and long-time Pennsylvania resident who served as a consultant to this project.

Through the Lens of Equality examines the health impact of sexual and intimate partner violence, caregiving responsibilities, poverty, and bias in the workplace, school, and health care.  The report delves into the politicization of women’s reproductive health care and shows how women are harmed by limited access to abortion, contraception, and maternity care.  It repeatedly points to the importance of implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) to expand access to better health care for women, while acknowledging the ACA’s serious gaps, including not mandating abortion coverage.

“This is not a publication about diseases, but instead an exposition of how biased environments in which women live, work, study, and receive health services are infected with outdated notions about women’s role in society which in turn have negative health consequences for them,” said Amal Bass, staff attorney at the Women’s Law Project.

The publication also provides a series of recommendations tailored to both overcoming sex bias and improving women’s health.  “Numerous targeted interventions well beyond improving access to insurance through the ACA — are necessary to cure institutional and individual prejudices about women,” said Terry Fromson, Managing Attorney of the WLP.  “Failure to do so will result in significant inequitable and avoidable health problems for women,” she added.

Through the Lens of Equality acknowledges the impressive strides that have been made in women’s rights over the past fifty years, but shows that past victories are not enough.  “Looking to the future requires insistence on equal treatment, equal access, and equal opportunity to achieve not just healthy women, but a healthy society,” said Susan Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney

The Women’s Law Project is a legal advocacy organization based in Pennsylvania.  Founded   in 1974, its mission is to create a more just and equitable society by advancing the rights and status of all women throughout their lives.  The Law Project engages in high impact litigation, public policy advocacy and community education.   Through the Lens of Equality is available at http://www.womenslawproject.org/NewPages/wkTLE_Base.html.

 

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Filed under Domestic violence, Economic Justice, Education, Employment, Equality, Family Planning, Family Violence, Gender Discrimination, Health Care, Reproductive Rights, Sex Discrimination, Sexual Assault, Sexual harassment, Violence Against Women, Women's health

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Offers Hope for Women in the Workplace, If Congress Passes It

“Tina,” who is pregnant and works as a health aide in a nursing home, is told by her doctor that she should not lift more than 35 pounds.  Her job description requires lifting 40 pounds regularly, but lighter duty jobs, such as answering the phone and working at the reception desk, are available.  Nevertheless, her employer stops scheduling her for shifts and tells her she must take unpaid Family Medical Leave, which would run out before the delivery of her baby and leave her without the income she needs to pay the 50% of her medical insurance her employer does not cover.  Left with no choice, Tina loses her job.

“Jessica,” who is pregnant and works as a pharmacist’s assistant, needs to sit down occasionally throughout her day.  Chairs are available for customers, but the pharmacy does not permit the staff to use them.  As a result, Jessica loses her job.

For women like Tina and Jessica, whose stories are based on the experiences of real women who have called the Women’s Law Project, current anti-discrimination laws often do not go far enough.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), prevents an employer from treating a pregnant woman differently from how that employer treats non-pregnant employees who are similar in their ability or inability to work.  Some courts, however, have limited the protections of this federal law by requiring pregnant employees to identify a non-pregnant employee who works in the same role and has almost identical limitations but is treated better by the employer in order to succeed with a lawsuit.  Some courts even permit employers to refuse to accommodate pregnant employees when they accommodate non-pregnant employees because pregnancy is not a work-related condition.  In short, despite the PDA, pregnant women are often treated differently from other employees with similar limitations.

Other laws do not provide better protections for pregnant women. Courts interpret the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) similarly to Title VII/PDA.  In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees, usually does not apply to women experiencing ordinary pregnancy.

A handful of states have laws that prevent employers from terminating women from employment or forcing them to take paid or unpaid leave when a reasonable accommodation is available, but Pennsylvania is not one of those states.  As a result of this gap in the law, many pregnant women in Pennsylvania, like Tina and Jessica, find themselves unemployed suddenly, without economic security and often without health insurance at a time when access to health care is crucial.

For Pennsylvania’s pregnant women and for women in many other states, the proposed federal Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would offer important workplace protections.  Introduced on May 8, 2012 by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and other representatives in the House, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would:

  • Require employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees who have limitations on the job related to their pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition, unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer.
  • Prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who need an accommodation.
  • Prohibit employers from forcing a pregnant employee to accept an accommodation she does not want.
  • Prohibit employers from forcing a pregnant employee to take unpaid or paid leave if a reasonable accommodation is available.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act, which has been in effect for over two decades.  Thus, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act employs a familiar framework that simply requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations that do not present an “undue burden.”  If passed, this law would help pregnant women stay employed and maintain their economic security and benefits, promoting the health of mothers and their families, while imposing only a minimal, temporary burden on employers.

Please contact your representative and tell them that they should support the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.  To call your representative, dial 202-224-3121 and tell the operator the name of your representative.

For more information on this bill, take a look at the National Women’s Law Center’s Fact Sheet.

To learn more about the effects of sex bias and discrimination in the workplace on women’s health, stay tuned for WLP’s forthcoming report, Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women, which will be available online the week of May 14, 2012.

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Filed under Conress, Employment, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights, Women's health

Divide and Conquer: The Wal-Mart Lawsuits Are Back

Four months after the United States Supreme Court, without ruling on the merits of the sex discrimination case under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, told Betty Dukes and her co-plaintiffs that their lawsuit against Wal-Mart could not proceed as a nationwide class action, the plaintiffs have re-organized and are trying again with smaller, regional class actions that may be permitted by the Supreme Court case. 

We blogged about the original class action lawsuit in March, when the Women’s Law Project signed an amicus brief authored by the National Women’s Law Center and the ACLU in support of the plaintiffs.  The class included 1.5 million women who work or have worked for Wal-Mart, women we believe were properly joined together in a single class action because Wal-Mart’s discriminatory decision-making processes affected all of them.  As statistical evidence shows, female Wal-Mart employees in all regions earned less, held lower-paying jobs, and received fewer promotions than men, even though on average they worked longer for the company than men. 

In Wal-Mart v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541 (2011), the Supreme Court rejected the possibility of a nationwide class action, concluding that the members of the proposed class did not satisfy the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 (a) of having questions of law or fact in common (“commonality”) and that their claim for backpay did not meet the requirements of Rule 23(b)(2).  By departing from established understandings of “commonality,” transforming it from a “threshold criterion” that is “easily satisfied” into a much harder inquiry to satisfy (see Justice Ginsburg’s dissent), the Supreme Court bent over backwards to make it harder for employees and consumers to challenge big corporations in court.

 Now, the battle is on again as women bring class action suits region by region: a case was filed against Wal-Mart in California federal court on October 27, and another in Texas federal court the next day.  Attorney Joseph Sellers says that we can expect to see an “armada of cases” across the nation in the near future.

By splitting up the nationwide lawsuit into many regional lawsuits, the plaintiffs hope to increase their chances at success by defining smaller classes and adjusting their arguments to conform to the Supreme Court’s anti-employee ruling.  Legal action against Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer and a bastion of gender discrimination, is as necessary today as it was when the plaintiffs originally filed their nationwide class action a decade ago. We continue to support the women as they pursue civil justice region by region.

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Filed under Employment, Equal pay, Equality, Sex Discrimination, Supreme Court

“It’s the Economy, Stupid” – Occupy Pennsylvania and Legislative Priorities

Like most Americans, Pennsylvanians want jobs, fair taxation, and smarter spending… but all they’re getting are ill-advised spending cuts, bickering across party lines and moral grandstanding about women’s healthcare. 

A few weeks ago, the Occupy movement, a grassroots movement for corporate accountability that attracted so much attention on Wall Street, came to Pennsylvania. Local Occupiers set up camp in Philadelphia in the first week of October, and in Pittsburgh and Harrisburg on October 16th.

 These Occupations have sponsored a broad range of activities from civil disobedience in Philadelphia, to children’s story hours, community art projects and anti-police violence demonstrations in Pittsburgh, to a Halloween party and protest parade this past weekend in Harrisburg. Occupiers are notably politically and intellectually diverse, residing in a tent city where Marxists sleep next door to Ron Paul libertarians, who share donated food and resources with union leaders and die-hard Obama supporters.

In fact, they are so politically diverse that they’ve been widely mocked as disorganized and unable to reach consensus. Critics have publicly asked, “What are these Occupiers so angry about?” These charts speak to the varied interests of the demonstrations’ participants.

The Occupiers are a diverse group, and they don’t all want to end the Federal Reserve or elect the Green Party. But the demands and grievances they do share resonate with many Americans; according to a recent Associated Press poll, over one-third of Americans support the Occupy movement.

According to The Huffington Post:

The protesters cite the economic crisis as a key reason for their unhappiness. The unemployment rate hovers around 9 percent nationally. Many homeowners owe more than their homes are worth. Foreclosures are rampant. And many young people – the key demographic of the protesters – can’t find jobs or live on their own.

The most consistent key factor in all this anger – repeated twice in the above quotation – is unemployment. Jobs. People who had jobs lost them; people looking for jobs can’t find them; people who have jobs are dealing with cuts in their hours, pay, and benefits that make it harder to support themselves on those jobs. People in bad job situations can’t leave their jobs because they wouldn’t be able to find another source of income. All this job anxiety makes people’s lives uncertain, and that uncertainty is causing anger, frustration, and restlessness among American citizens.

You’d imagine that lawmaking officials in our state, wanting to get re-elected, would be scrambling to pass legislation that would create more job opportunities for the 8.2% of the Pennsylvania labor force that was reported out of work in September 2011.

This has not come to pass. In the past year, PA has slashed the budgets for public education (which gives people the work skills they need to get jobs), libraries (which enable people without home internet access to fill out online job applications), and public transportation (which gets people to and from their jobs). This is, of course, to say nothing of the people currently hired by schools, libraries, and bus and train companies who will be laid off as these cuts take effect. 

Pennsylvania’s current policies lay the groundwork for massive, long-term unemployment on a much larger scale than we’re seeing right now – and that’s just what the legislature is doing in its spare time!

In the first six months of 2011, Pennsylvania lawmakers spent a whopping one-third of their voting session days at the Capitol working to restrict access to safe, legal abortion at a time when and one in six children in the state lives in poverty.

Our lawmakers need to check their priorities soon, or Pennsylvania’s children – who are already suffering – will grow up with fewer job opportunities than their parents have right now. Although not everyone is rushing to Occupy the nearest city, most agree with the message that PA’s legislators could serve constituents better by making economic recovery a priority.

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Filed under Abortion Access, Democracy, Economic Justice, Employment, PA Legislature, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Reproductive Rights

Wage Gap Still Exists, Census Shows

Recently released 2010 census data shows the gender gap unimproved from the year before—women still make only 77 cents to every dollar a man makes. For women of color this discrepancy is even larger. African American women earned only 67.7 cents and Latinas earned 58.7 cents to the male dollar.  Despite the fact that women are becoming more educated than men on average, they still continue to have significantly lower salaries. As we have blogged before, this wage discrepancy is caused by numerous factors, but two significant ones are thought to be discrimination in the workplace and difficultly in balancing work and family life.

Unfortunately, this news is further evidence that progress towards wage equality is stalling. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that “over the past decade, the wage gap narrowed by less than one percentage point, compared with four percentage points between 1991 and 2000. In the decade prior to that, 1981 to 1990, the gap closed by even more: ten percentage points…”

To help women break the glass ceiling and to help the businesses they work for in the process, Editorial Director of Working Mother magazine, Jennifer Owens, suggests that companies start offering more flexible work schedule hours to help women  balance their work and family lives. If more companies offered flexible schedules the effect on narrowing the wage gap could be significant. Owens notes that

Pay levels are, in general, equal for men and women until about the age that women begin to have children. Once the pressures of family appear, women’s comparative pay shrinks, in part, because too many women are forced either to leave the workforce or dial back their careers to take over childcare duties. Once they return to work, women find their pay rate diminished. In fact, studies find the pay gap is actually worse between working mothers and women without children, than between women and men.

More flexible work hours would not only help female employees who continue to work after motherhood, but the companies they work for as well. Owens stated that “Flexibility has a direct connection to the bottom line in terms of reduced turnover and thus, lower costs for recruitment and training of replacement employees…it also ties directly to lower absenteeism.” Working Mother recently published a list of 100 Best Companies for mothers in the workforce. These businesses, as a result of offering paid maternity leave and flexible schedules, have benefitted from “higher productivity, increased engagement, lower turnover, and better health” of their employees.

To find out more about the struggle for pay equity and what you can do to advocate for fair wages, click here.

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Filed under Economic Justice, Employment, Equal pay, Wage Gap

Protecting Health Insurance During Pregnancy

Last week, a Ms. Magazine blog post brought to our attention an important California initiative that would protect women’s health insurance during pregnancy.  Unlike most states, California offers Pregnancy Leave up to four months for eligible women and Paid Family Leave, which provides employees with a portion of their income during their leave from work. However, these laws do not require employers to keep their employees on a health insurance plan during their pregnancy leave. The California Work and Family Coalition is working to fill this gap in the law. SB 299 (pdf) would make it illegal for an employer to remove a pregnant woman from her health plan during her leave, assuming that leave is no longer than four months out of a year.

As Ms. points out, women need their health insurance more than ever during pregnancy: “Statistics show that approximately 13 percent of women will have a complication from pregnancy requiring them to be hospitalized before delivery. Twenty percent of pregnant women spend a minimum of one week on bedrest during the course of their pregnancy.”

The fact that most California women can take a leave of absence from work during pregnancy without fear of losing their jobs is an important victory for them and their families. The next step is to ensure that they can take leave without fear of losing their health care.

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Filed under Employment, Health insurance, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights, Women's health

Study: Maternity Leave Important for Health of Mother and Child

As reported in the health section of Time, a new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research revealed that a short maternity leave has negative health outcomes for both mother and child. Mothers of 3-month-old infants who worked full-time “reported feeling greater rates of depression, stress, poor health and overall family stress than mothers who were able to stay home (either because they didn’t have a job or because they were on maternity leave).”

Not only do these health problems affect the mother, but her baby also suffers from a short maternity leave. The study’s authors cited “numerous studies [which] show that clinical depression in mothers as well as self-reported depressive symptoms, anxiety, and psychological distress, are important risk factors for adverse emotional and cognitive outcomes in their children, particularly during the first few years of life.”

Interestingly, the study also found that it is only when the mother has to go back to work too quickly that her health and the health of her child suffers. Indeed, the study found that “in the long run, working actually decreased moms’ depression and stress.” The key to a healthy mother and child seems to be not necessarily staying out of the workforce entirely, but rather having the time to transition back to full-time work. The study found that

After 4.5 years, many of the mothers [who participated in the study] had transitioned back into the workplace, learning to balance competing demands on their time between family and work. The transition isn’t easy, but the key seems to be having enough time to settle into a new life as both parent and professional. That’s why maternity leave is so important– it’s a time entirely devoted to transitioning to the parental role..

Unfortunately, despite evidence that maternity leave is a vital component of ensuring the health of mothers and their children, the United States does not have any laws guaranteeing paid leave for new mothers or fathers. The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act allows employees with new children or ill family members to take leave from their job, but it only ensures unpaid leave and only for twelve weeks. Not only that, but many women aren’t covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, since it doesn’t apply to the more than 50% of workers who work for companies with fewer than 50 employees or who work fewer than 1,250 hours in the past year.

The US is behind many other countries in guaranteeing parents time with their newborns. The Huffington Post reported that 178 countries have national laws guaranteeing paid leave for new mothers, and more than 50 nations, including most Western countries, also guarantee paid leave for new fathers.

To find out more about how the United States’ parental leave policy compares to those in other nations, click here.

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Filed under Childbirth, Employment, Health insurance, Parenthood, Pregnancy

Study Reveals Women Still Not Recognized as Capable Leaders

A recent meta-analysis (integration of a large number of studies on the same subject) by Northwestern University reveals that most people still use gendered stereotypes when thinking about leadership. The consequence of this is that “Women are viewed as less qualified or natural in most leadership roles…and secondly, when women adopt culturally masculine behaviors often required by these roles, they may be viewed as inappropriate or presumptuous.” These biases against women are most likely contributing to the ever-present leadership gap in the U.S.—women still only hold 17% of seats in Congress and in 2008 only 15.7% of corporate officers in Fortune 500 companies were women.

Previous research found that women are perceived as inherently having more “communal” qualities such as being compassionate. Men, on the other hand, were perceived by participants in the studies as inherently having more “agentic” qualities such as being assertive. Research found that it is agentic qualities that are perceived as being an important element of leadership. The Times of India sums up, “Because men fit the cultural stereotype of leadership better than women, they have better access to leadership roles and face fewer challenges in becoming successful in them.” Both female and male participants in the studies that made up the meta-analysis saw men as being inherently better leaders than women.

It is incredibly disheartening that, as Laura Hibbard commented, in an era where “women hold some of the most powerful positions in the United States (see: Hilary Clinton, Secretary of State, Nancy Pelosi, [Former] Speaker of the House, etc.) we still haven’t really changed the way we think about leadership roles and women.” However, the study did show some encouraging trends. The meta-analysis collected data since 1973 so could see if attitudes towards women in leadership are changing over time. Most people still view leadership roles as inherently male but Alice Eagly, professor of psychology and a co-author of the study told Hibbard, “women should be encouraged that leadership is culturally not as extremely masculine as it was in the past…That’s progress because it makes leadership roles more accessible to women and easier to negotiate when in such a role.”

To learn more about the effort to see more women in leadership positions and to find out how you can help in that effort, visit The White House Project’s website.

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Filed under Employment, Gender Discrimination, Sex Discrimination, Women Leaders