An Era of Family-Friendliness?
The first days of an Obama Presidency have been exciting ones for families. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act makes it a bit harder to discriminate on salary based on gender. Michelle Obama has hired Jocelyn Frye to be her policy director; Frye is the general counsel at the National Partnership for Women and Families, and she heads its Workplace Fairness Program. And on the campaign trail, Obama promised working dads and moms many gifts, such as more money for early learning programs for babies through preschoolers, expanding FMLA to smaller companies, creation of paid leave programs just for parents, requiring employers to offer 7 paid sick days per year, and encouraging companies to offer more flexible work schedules and telecommuting.
Wow - is this Christmas in February, or what?!
I'm thrilled that Barack Obama has signed the Fair Pay Act into law so early in his presidency. And it is great that Michelle Obama has taken up the cause for families - we'll hope for great things from her involvement. I'm hopeful, but more nervous, however, about where the Obamas might allocate family-friendly funds next. Will they go for expanding childcare options so that more mothers can work, or work longer hours? This can clearly help specific economic groups (e.g., single moms), but for others, it digs the hole of unequal parenting even deeper. Instead of making it easier to place our kids in long days of outside childcare, why aren't we making it easier for mothers and fathers to lighten up on work in equal measure - freeing a bit of time from both of their schedules to care for their children personally. The math isn't that much different either way; childcare isn't free and money saved here can offset earnings lost by reducing work hours.
I say this purely from an ESP perspective, of course. The topic is far from black and white. But if I could choose from the Obamas' menu of family law options, I'd absolutely pick work flexibility enhancement regulations - available equally to men and women. These are among the least costly of the proposed ideas to our nation and our companies (heck, flexible work can enhance company profitability).
What would you wish for?