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Families Succeed When Women Have Equal Access to Nontraditional Jobs

On Monday I attended the White House Summit on Working Families. The Summit brought together business leaders, advocates, and workers to talk about the challenges faced by working parents and how we can address them. It was both sad and inspiring to hear President Obama talk about the need for paid family leave, high-quality and affordable childcare, workplace flexibility, and decent wages for a hard day’s work. These are things a great country like ours should already have, and yet it’s clear that we all have to work together to push for these changes. Too many women are living paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford to take a day off to stay with a sick child or care for a family member. 

I was especially happy to hear the President talk about the need for more women and people of color in nontraditional jobs, especially the STEM fields. For example, we know that despite making up almost half of workers in all occupations (47 percent), women are only 2.6 percent of workers in construction and extraction occupations. This underrepresentation negatively affects women’s income, as traditionally male fields pay higher wages and have a lower wage gap than those dominated by women. That’s why our new report, Women in Construction: Still Breaking Ground, is so important. More must be done to reverse this trend and bring the construction industry into the 21st century.

The President agrees. In conjunction with the Summit, the White House released a fact sheet that outlines how federal agencies and Congress can help:

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Judicial Nominations Update

Posted by Amy K. Matsui, Senior Counsel and Director of Women and the Courts | Posted on: June 24, 2014 at 05:12 pm

Today, the Senate unanimously confirmed four district court nominees, including one woman: Paul Byron and Carlos Mendoza to the Middle District of Florida; Beth Bloom, to the Southern District of Florida; and Geoffrey Crawford, to the District of Vermont.

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Even Presidents' Children Need Child Care

Posted by Karen Schulman, Senior Policy Analyst | Posted on: June 24, 2014 at 03:29 pm

Parents across America think and talk about child care every day. It isn’t every day, though, that the President, Vice President, First Lady, and former Speaker of the House all talk about child care—but that’s exactly what they all did at yesterday’s White House Summit on Working Families. They shared their own past experiences struggling to work while ensuring their children were well cared for. Michelle Obama spoke about the time years ago (before entering the White House) when her carefully constructed balance between work and family fell apart when her trusted child care provider left to find a better-paying job. Nancy Pelosi reminisced about her experiences raising five young children born six years apart. The speakers went on to emphasize the need to help other parents—especially those dealing with much more challenging circumstances than their own—find and afford high-quality child care.

At the Summit, a broad range of policy makers, business leaders, workers, and advocates—including National Women’s Law Center Co-President Nancy Duff Campbell, who spoke on a panel on caregiving—highlighted how high-quality child care and early education benefits all of us. It enables parents to get and keep a job and work with peace of mind that their children are in safe, nurturing settings. It enables children to learn and grow and prepares them for success in school and in life. It gives businesses more loyal, more productive employees, which boosts profits. All of these benefits combine to produce a stronger economy, now and in the future.

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President Obama Stands Up for Pregnant Workers

Posted by Emily Martin, Vice President and General Counsel | Posted on: June 24, 2014 at 01:43 pm

It’s a pretty special day when you get a shout-out from the President. And yesterday, at the White House Summit on Working Families, pregnant workers got that shout-out. Twenty-first century families need 21st century workplaces, the President said:

That means treating pregnant workers fairly, because too many are forced to choose between their health and their job. Right now, if you’re pregnant you could potentially get fired for taking too many bathroom breaks—clearly from a boss who has never been pregnant—or forced [onto] unpaid leave. That makes no sense.

Of course, the President is right. (And as someone who was lucky enough to be there in person, I can attest that these remarks got a huge cheer inside the standing-room-only event.) Right now, when pregnant workers have a medical need for a temporary accommodation, too often bosses say no, even when they provide accommodations to workers who need them because of disabilities or injuries. Pregnant workers are then faced with a choice no one should have to make, between ignoring their doctor’s advice and putting their jobs at risk. But luckily there’s a solution at hand, as the President made clear, when he urged, “Congress should pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act without delay.”

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Serving Up the Truth About Sexual Harassment, With a Side of Commonsense

Posted by Liz Watson, Senior Counsel and Director of Workplace Justice for Women | Posted on: June 24, 2014 at 10:34 am

Written by Nikki Lewis, Executive Director, DC Jobs with Justice, and Liz Watson, Senior Counsel and Director of Workplace Justice for Women, NWLC

What do you call the person who can make you stay late at work, who decides who works the night shift and who works days, who works the cash register and who cleans the toilets? You call that person the boss. But exactly one year ago today, the Supreme Court said that if the person who directs your daily work harasses you, unless they also have the power to hire and fire you, the strong protections that are supposed to kick in when bosses harass their subordinates do not apply.

Right about now, you might be scratching your head thinking that this doesn’t make any sense. And you would be right. But let us explain how we ended up with this terrible rule and what can be done about it.

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A Tale of Two Macy's

Posted by Liz Watson, Senior Counsel and Director of Workplace Justice for Women | Posted on: June 23, 2014 at 04:47 pm

Earlier today, I caught up with Kay Thompson and Sasha Hammad during a break at the White House Summit on Working Families. Kay spoke at the Summit about what having a predicable full-time schedule and a say in the timing of her work hours has meant for her family. Sasha Hammad is director of the Retail Action Project, and is fighting to secure these same protections for all retail workers in New York City.

Liz: Kay, you mentioned you work at Macy’s.

Kay: Yes, I work at Macy’s in Herald’s Square in the domestics department. And I’m a proud member of Local 1-S of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union/UFCW.

Liz: And what does your work schedule there look like?

Kay: Thanks to my collective bargaining agreement, my schedule guarantees me the right to choose my days off six months in advance, and determine which days I am available to come in early and which days I can work late. Even during the holiday season, I get my schedule three weeks in advance.

Liz: From your remarks in there, it sounds like this schedule has made a big difference to you and your family.

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Title IX's 42nd Anniversary: 9 Key Facts

Posted by Michaela Olson, Intern | Posted on: June 23, 2014 at 02:36 pm

1. Title IX, passed 42 years ago today as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, is concise but critical: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

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Five Reasons the Working Parents Home Office Act is Not What Working Mothers Need

Posted by Elizabeth Johnston, Fellow | Posted on: June 20, 2014 at 03:23 pm

In advance of the White House Summit on Working Families, several Senate Republicans unveiled a package of bills to address issues facing working parents. One featured proposal is the Working Parents Home Office Act. Introduced by Senator McConnell on Wednesday, it would give parents a tax deduction for their home office if they put a baby crib in it. Current law disallows a deduction if there is a crib in the office. Here are just a few reasons why a tax break for home office/nurseries falls way short of the goal line.

1. Most mothers don’t work from home. In the U.S. today, 71% of all mothers [PDF] work outside the home. In fact, over 1.2 million [PDF] mothers with very young children are in low-wage occupations. This accounts for nearly one in five working mothers. These jobs are marked by difficult and sometimes abusive scheduling practices [PDF]that make arranging childcare a nightmare. Women need predictable, stable, and flexible work schedules that let them meet the extreme demands they face at work and at home. This bill does nothing for women that don’t work from home but need more flexibility. A right to request law, like those in San Francisco and Vermont, would give all workers an easier way to ask their employers about work schedules that work for them and their families.

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