I recently had the privilege of representing Jobs for the Future at the White House Summit on Working Families. The high-energy event brought together employers, policymakers, advocates, academics, union leaders, and other stakeholders to discuss a wide range of issues that impact working families in our country—from paid sick and maternity leave to career ladders, and from child care, and eldercare to workplace flexibility. It was a reminder that while all working families struggle to balance their time, the working poor and those stuck on the “sticky floor” of the labor market experience these struggles at a much greater magnitude.
These complex issues cannot be solved by any one entity alone but require steps from the public and private sector. I will be interested to see what traction comes out of the event. The White House has committed to a year of action structured around the following goals:
- Expanding Workplace Flexibility And Empowering Workers
- Increasing Access To Affordable Child Care
- Making Progress Toward Solutions For Paid Leave
- Continuing To Close The Pay Gap By Increasing Access To Non-Traditional Occupations
- Expanding Tax Credits That Support Working Families
- New Private Sector Efforts To Bring Solutions To More Workplaces
JFF, along with our partners at Wider Opportunities for Women, have made a commitment related to the nontraditional occupations goal. We have committed to adapt and expand our Pink to Green Toolkit from its current focus on recruiting and retaining women in training programs for green sector jobs to a broader focus on training in STEM careers that hold the promise of new and high-potential career paths for women. In particular, our organizations will work with the Administration to promote the toolkit to potential applicants for the $100M American Apprenticeship Grants to assist in increasing the number of women and other underrepresented groups in apprenticeships.
The discussions at the Summit were very meaningful to me both as a workforce development professional and as a working mom. For example, Sabrina Parsons, the owner of Palo Alto Software, spoke about building a work culture where it was acceptable for a parent to bring their child to work with them when necessary. That example reminded me my own experience growing up. My mother returned to the workforce when I (her youngest child) was in fourth grade. She got a job as the office manager for our local vo-tech high school that was located near my elementary school. Since she needed to be at work before my school day started, her boss allowed her to bring me to work with her. The time I spent in this setting listening to conversations between teachers, students and school officials prepared me well for my career in education and in the workforce—but more importantly, it gave my mother piece of mind that I was safe.
Fast forwarding a few decades, I am thankful that a series of understanding bosses, benefits such as the on-site daycare I could access as a federal employee, and now a husband who is willing and able to be a stay-at-home father have allowed me to balance the roles of worker and mother.
I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I learned at the Summit that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the American workforce at large, only about 11 percent of workers have access to paid family leave that includes time off for caregiving, yet less than one in three children have a stay-at-home parent. As the President stated at the event “When that many members of our workforce are forced to choose between a job and their family, something’s wrong.”
I encourage you to keep this important conversation going. For more information on the Summit please visit http://workingfamiliessummit.org and http://www.whitehouse.gov/working-families, or see our announcement about the event. Join the conversation #FamiliesSucceed on Twitter.