MotherhoodWorking Mom Woes

A Better Balance Celebrates 10 Years and Looks at the Road Ahead

A Better Balance is a national legal advocacy organization dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace. They do this through legislative advocacy, litigation, and education. A Better Balance just celebrated 10 years of existence. While a lot has improved in that time, they are still working hard to bring improvements to the conditions working mothers have to endure in the workplace, to improve working conditions, and to change the way the work-family dilemma is seen by society. In 10 years, the discourse has indeed changed. Today, there is much more awareness that “work-family” balance and issues such as the need for sick paid leave, paid family time and more are not issues that are a concern only of working mothers, but more and more we recognize that it is a problem that affects all of society and must be addressed.

READ RELATED: “NO PAID LEAVE? HOW THE REST OF THE WORLD REACTS IN GIFS.” 

In honor of its tenth anniversary,  A Better Balance held a conference entitled Moving Families Forward: Reflections on a Decade of Change at NYU School of Law. With a great panel of experts they looked at how far they had come and what more needs to be done.

Moving Families Forward-ABB

 

After an introduction by Yolanda Wu and Dina Bakst, co-founders of ABB, I was happy to hear  Comptroller Scott Stringer speak about issues like flextime and the need for paid leave. It’s always refreshing when a man recognizes that this is not only a woman’s issue, especially if it that person is a public servant. Comptroller Scott Stringer has been quite active and in touch with these issues. His office has conducted surveys on these issues; one in June 2014 entitled Families and Flexibilty: Reshaping the Workplace for the 21st Century” and the other in Sept. 2015, entitled “Families and Flexibility: Building the 21st Century Workplace.” He stressed the importance of putting place measures to help parents succeed in th workplace: “We need measure in place to help employees succeed.”

Lieutenant Governor Katherine Hochul was also in attendance. She highlighted the Governor’s desire to pass a paid leave in New York State (which would guarantee paid leave for 12 weeks, making it the most generous leave in the USA). She said “We shouldn’t be one of three countries in the world who doesn’t offer paid leave.” She also said that child rearing gives you experience about leadership.”

There were two panels, the first panel looked at how far we’ve come in these issues. It was moderated by Kelly Wallace, CNN.

Panelists included experts in the fields of work-family balance: Dina Bakst of A Better Balance, Monifa Bandele of MomsRising, author Ann Crittenden who wrote “The Price of Motherhood” Anna Wadia from the Ford Foundation and Judith Warner author of “Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety.”

 

One of the things I loved about A Better Balance and the discussion that took place was that it took into account not only the views of middle-class white women; there was a great discussion and acknowledgment that lower-income women and women of color face different issues. Monifa Bandele, of MomsRising, pointed to the need of intersectionality and the need to include everyone at the table. Points were made about the fact that a low-wage worker’s inability to access paid leave can be detrimental and put women in precarious situations, even forcing them into poverty.

The second panel looked at where we go from here. It was moderated by Bridgi Schulte of New America and author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has Time.

Panelists were Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Heath, Carol Joyner of Labor Project for Working Families, Julie Kashen, Make it Work, Sherry Lewisant from A Better Balance and Josh Levs, author of All In: How Our Work-First Fails Dads, Families and Business– And How We Can Fix It Together. 

The panelists agreed that there is momentum now, but a culture shift has to happen.

 

Having access to paid leave is not only a woman’s problem, or a mother’s issue, we need to think of it as societal issue and it is– if women stop having babies, who suffers? Society– if we stop procreating it would be the end of the human race.

Josh Levs, who I have interviewed before (I was so glad to meet him in person!) has an interesting experience: when he had a child he realized he wouldn’t have access to paid leave, while others (for example those that were adopting babies) did have access to it. So he took legal action, started talking about fathers and taking care of babies, and he realized that other fathers wanted to be involved and that this was an issue people needed to discuss. He has become an expert in the matter– he will tell you– not paid leave is NOT bad for businesses and he wrote a book as well: All In: How Our Work-First Fails Dads, Families and Business– And How We Can Fix It Together. 

I was so thrilled to meet Josh in person, I have been in touch with him in the past to discuss how dads play a role in child rearing. (You can read more about the Working Dads Series here and check out my post on BabyCenter as well).

as well as other fabulous individuals from Time to Care NY who are working on the #PaidLeave Initiative in NYS:

ABB has also released a report with the same title where they highlight the successes of the last 10 years (helping to successfully pass paid sick leave laws, for example, advocate for pregnancy fairness in the workplace, support and pass the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in NYS, co-author amicus briefs to the Supreme Court in support of workers, and much more.

The report also details the successful strategies ABB has used to pass legislation, get societal views on these issues to change and garner support for changes.

I will leave you with some food for thought:

 

Momentum for paid leave is at an all time high in New York State, according to Comptroller Stringer’s survey said that 80 percent of respondents  in New York City said that they support a 12-week paid family leave program in NYS.  

While there is huge public support, small business owners are afraid and claim this would hurt small businesses. However, we’ve seen that this is not true, as California has shown us:

To get involved, make sure to check out Time to Care NY: The Paid Leave Coalition and A Better Balance. 

You can also check out #paidleave and #MakeNYNext on Twitter (and check out #ABBConference for more info on the conference itself! 

Diana Limongi
welcome! I'm a Latina working mom from Astoria, NY, mom to a trilingual four-year old. I blog about motherhood, Latino issues, women's issues, work/life balance, food, parenting and raising my multilingual and multicultural son!

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