Show working moms how much we care
By JENNIFER MUIR BEUTHIN, Contributing Columnist
It has become axiomatic that on Mother’s Day we honor our moms with greeting cards, flowers and some food-related event like brunch or breakfast in bed. That’s how I honored my mom last week. That’s what many of us do, often mindlessly, year after year, whether our mom is 19 or 90.
But, this Mother’s Day, I found myself thinking beyond the ceremonial gestures, questioning what we as a society actually do to support our moms.
Approximately two-thirds of all mothers are working mothers. So it makes sense that one of the ways we can honor moms is by helping them be better moms by improving their workplace lives. And, at least in this area, we have done a lot but there is clearly more we can do.
There are many more career opportunities for women than ever before. Unfortunately, women are still only paid 75 cents on the dollar compared to men performing the same job. Mitigating economic anxiety is a great way to support moms, and we can do that by providing equal pay for women and men for work of equal or comparable value.
And just because there are more career opportunities for women, that doesn’t mean there are equal opportunities. Only 24 percent of corporate CEOs are women, and they make the same 25 percent less than their male counterparts. We should continue to expand access for women to all occupations and industries, particularly in leadership roles.
Women are 50 percent more likely than men to work in the public sector. Every time we eliminate a government program, every time we cut back a government service, every time we forego an opportunity to pursue a public-sector initiative, we disproportionately impact opportunities and economic security for working moms.
Conversely, maintaining and expanding public services enriches the lives not just of moms, but of the families who depend on them. Because the fact remains that, in addition to assuming increased economic responsibilities, moms in most cases continue to be the primary caregiver for children. For that reason, we should promote policies that encourage workers to balance their work lives with their personal lives and otherwise assist them in maintaining healthy and positive family relationships, including paid family leave.
One positive effort to that end is playing out in the California Legislature today. Senate Bill 878, by state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, would require employers to provide more certainty with workers’ job schedules so moms and working families can better juggle work and the needs of their kids.
I recently read a blog post by a commercial airline pilot who unsuccessfully tried to persuade her employer to institute a set of commonsense policies to accommodate mothers who are breastfeeding. That corporate response is far too common in the United States. We should join the rest of the industrialized world and support our moms by supporting the removal of workplace barriers to good parenting practices like breastfeeding.
Similarly, we should aggressively enforce policies that forbid sexual harassment and sexual assault, and provide effective unconditional support for victims of those crimes. I was horrified to recently read about a private prison corporation that apparently routinely ignored rapes of its employees and refused to institute reasonable policies to protect them from assaults.
Moms deserve all the nice things we do on Mother’s Day to honor them. But moms deserve much more than that. Providing greater opportunities, pay equality, family-friendly policies and safety in the workplace makes better moms; better moms make better children; and better children make a better future for us all.
Jennifer Muir Beuthin is general manager of the Orange County Employees Association.
Publication Date: May 17, 2016