Skip to contentNational Women's Law Center

Womenstake, NWLC's Blog

Obama and the "Mad Men" Era: Harnessing Popular Culture at the Summit on Working Families

Posted by Hana Bajramovic, Intern | Posted on: June 26, 2014 at 09:26 am

At last Monday’s White House Summit on Working Families, the President spoke about the need for family-friendly workplace policies, like child care, family leave, equal pay, and flexibility. Celebrity guest Christina Hendricks, who plays working mother Joan on AMC’s Mad Men, also spoke briefly: “Women come up to me and thank me for playing Joan,” she told the audience, adding that “the only place for a story like Joan[’s] should be on TV.”

Her appearance was, first and foremost, a smart move on the part of the White House to shift the conversation beyond the Beltway and policy wonks. President Obama frequently refers to policies “that belong in a Mad Men episode.” In this year’s State of the Union address, for example, he used the phrase to argue that a woman deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job; that she deserves equal pay for equal work; and that she deserves a day off to care for a sick child or parent. By rooting such policies in concrete television show imagery, Obama is able to heighten their staying power.

Read more... 1 comment

Another Birthday, Another Attack on Title IX

Title IX is 42 years old this week.  The law, which forced open the doors to education for women and girls, is well known for its impact in sports.  Even though many girls across the country still don’t receive equal opportunities to play sports [PDF], opponents of Title IX say the law has gone far

Read more... 4 comments

NWLC Testifies at D.C. Council Hearing on Proposed Bill to Prevent Bosses from Firing Women for Their Reproductive Decisions

Posted by Sarah Brafman, Intern | Posted on: June 25, 2014 at 11:58 am

It made for riveting television. No, I’m not talking about the latest World Cup match, although I’m sure that was riveting too. I’m referring to Monday’s public hearing at the D.C. Council on the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 where NWLC’s Senior Counsel and Director of State Reproductive Policy Gretchen Borchelt testified in support of the bill. In case you missed the live-stream, we are here to make sure you’re all caught up and water-cooler ready. 

As we mentioned in an earlier post, women around the country are being fired or threatened with firing for using fertility treatments to get pregnant, having sex while unmarried or using birth control.  In response to this alarming trend, the D.C. Council, along with legislatures in New York, Michigan, and North Carolina, have introduced bills to ensure that no man or woman is discriminated against by their boss based on their personal reproductive health decisions. The New York bill recently passed the State Assembly and is now pending in the New York State Senate. At yesterday’s hearing, the D.C. Council heard from various groups voicing support, and opposition, to the D.C. bill.   Here’s what you need to know from the hearing:

Read more... 1 comment

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:

Read more... 1 comment

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.

Read more... 1 comment

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.

Read more... 4 comments

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.”

Read more... 6 comments

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.

Read more... 5 comments