This new blog is about consciousness raising and culture change. Very few Americans realize that there is deep bias against mothers in this country and that we are undermining family's ability to care for children. I began to understand this a few years ago when I learned that equal pay for equal work is just as big a problem today as it was 40 years ago. I was shocked! Women without children now earn 90 cents to a man's dollar, mothers earn 73 cents, and single mothers earn about 60 cents to a man's dollar. A study done last year revealed that a mother is 79 percent less likely to be offered a job when all other factors -- including resumes, education, and job experience -- are equal. Ever wonder why there are so many women and children in poverty? Every wonder why there are so few women in leadership? Since over 80 percent of women become mothers I would say that women have a long way to go before they have equal opportunity in this country. Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner and I wrote The Motherhood Manifesto and launched www.MomsRising.org in 2006 and FamiliesRising.org in 2007 with policy and culture change in mind.
Why is there deep bias against mothers? It turns out our country lacks basic supports for families. Out of 173 countries, only four have no paid leave for new mothers -- Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, Liberia and the U.S.A. (One of these countries is not like the others.) Our health care system is the most expensive in the world per capita, yet our child mortality rate is 37th. Paid sick days are not required, quality child care is hard to line up and often more than parents can afford, the list goes on. It turns out that having a child is the top cause of a "poverty spell" for families, a time when income dips below what's needed for basic living expenses like food and rent. What a sad statistic. Frankly, the U.S. is missing basic family supports, which most other countries take as a given -- and the kicker is that countries with family-friendly policies and program in place don't have the wage gaps we do here. We know how to fix this problem.
Then there are the cultural barriers. Too many employers have '50s-style work expectation that workers have no care responsibilities at home, yet most children in this country have both parents employed outside the home. It's a time bind. EXTREME WORK, where employees brag about 24/7 jobs, leave little time for family, community or life outside of work. The U.S. now has the dubious distinction of having the most hard-working population in the world. We spend the most hours per year of any country in the world at work and vacations are becoming an endangered tradition. Might we be working stupid because we are so tired? It is time for us to consider our values.
The good news is businesses that are adapting to the human need for flexibility are thriving. Businesses that recognize and accommodate the shifting needs of workers based upon their family responsibilities are retaining highly qualified employees and benefiting substantially. Profits and productivity go up as does worker satisfaction and loyalty, and in turn corporate costs go down because there is less of a need for recruitment and retraining. This is one of those delightful times when we can construct real win/win solutions with a bit of thought and human kindness.
This column is going to feature leading thinkers in the field of work life satisfaction:
Robert Drago is a Professor of Labor Studies and Women's Studies at Penn State, co-founder of the Take Care Net, and author of Striking a Balance.
Irma Herrera Executive Director Equal Rights Advocates, www.equalrights.org
Mary Ann Mason Professor, The University of California, Berkeley, Author of Mothers on the Fast Track and The Equality Trap.
John de Graaf the President of Take Back Your Time and lead organizer of the What's the Economy for, Anyway? conference, coming up in Washington DC on Oct. 5-7 (see www.timeday.org/economyconference)
And other stellar voices. Please join us for a peaceful work revolution.