As a mother, I'm concerned. As a women, I'm concerned. As someone who writes about work and family issues, I'm concerned.
There's a lot at stake in the next four years. I need to pay attention. So do you.
In recent years, we have seen progress in benefits offered to working mothers: More companies began offering paid maternity (and paternity) leave or extended the time off. More cities and states passed paid leave and paid sick days laws. More women and families gained access to healthcare. The issue of equal pay became front of mind. Lastly, minimum wage increased in 21 states, a crucial boost for families living paycheck to paycheck.
Yes, we've seen progress. But don't get too excited yet. Changes are afoot that threaten some of the advances that make a difference in the lives of working mothers. We need to ensure all working mothers receive crucial workplace protections and medical benefits.
Here's what we need to watch and weigh in on:
1. Repeal of Obamacare and its replacement. Republicans in Congress want to take away healthcare from tens of millions of people without offering a comprehensive, transparent or vetted replacement plan.
Debra Ness, president, National Partnership for Women & Families, made this statement: Senate Republicans demonstrated blatant disregard for women’s health and economic security by voting against amendments designed to prevent insurance companies from charging women higher premiums than men and denying coverage to women simply because of their gender; ensure access to affordable birth control; and preserve Medicaid expansion and the Medicare program as we know it. As the budget moves on to the U.S. House of Representatives, on behalf of the millions who stand to lose health care, we demand that House leadership stop playing politics with our health care, especially women’s health, including reproductive health, and instead make it a priority."
It's tempting to think our voices don't matter on this issue that affects millions of people. Working mothers can't afford to ignore access to medical coverage that saves lives and prevents bankruptcies.
2. Paid sick leave. People are more likely to go to work sick or send a sick child to school if they don’t have access to paid sick days. Ivanka Trump appears to be a proponent of some type of legislation around this issue. The Healthy Families Act, floating around Capitol Hill, is an important piece of legislation that could make a difference for many families by putting a national paid sick days standard in place; The National Partnership for Women & Families wants us to show our support with a message: "Pass a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It's the right thing to do." Here's the link to get your voice heard.
3. Equal pay. There won’t be a female commander-in-chief this year, but women made big gains in other areas of government and business. Eleven of the top nation’s courts will have a majority of justices who are women in 2017. As Working Mother notes: Women still make 79 cents for every dollar a man earns, but several executive actions signed by President Barack Obama will help increase transparency in pay—a crucial step toward eliminating the wage gap. Now, all of Obama's executive actions are at risk. We need to keep a close eye on this important step in the right direction for working women and working moms, and fight in our own workplaces for more transparency, too. Here's the link to encourage members of Congress to support fair pay.
4. Workplace Fairness. You should not get fired or lose a promotion because you’re pregnant. And you should never have to experience sexual harassment at work. It’s not right, but discrimination is common in the 21st century workplace. There are efforts going on to quash the nomination of Trump appointees who have a disregard for equality. I urge you to support those efforts.
5. Women's March on Washington. On January 21, millions of women plan to march on Washington to protect our rights, our safety, our families, and our democracy, and to say NO to hate. You can keep up with developments @womensmarch or #womensmarch. Also, MomsRising does a great job of keeping the public up on key issues of importance to moms.
What else we need to watch:
- Millennials today earn 20 percent less than their boomer parents at the same age. With student loan debt and high childcare costs, young families are moving in with parents. Great article in USA today about this trend.
This is an important year to keep up with the news and let your voice be heard! We can all play a part in keeping the momentum going in a positive direction!