Motherhood and the wage gap were tied together yesterday by various tweeters.
Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg, author of the seminal Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Succeed,and founder of Leanin.org, posted a lengthy reflection on Mother's Day on her Facebook page.
We could not agree more with the opening of Ms. Sandberg's post:
Being a mother is the most rewarding – and hardest – job many of us will ever have. The day you become a mom, you also become a caregiver, teacher, nurse, and coach. It’s an all-in-one kind of role that comes with no training.
Ms. Sandberg then went on to make some specific policy recommendations:
To start, it’s long past time to raise the federal minimum wage. Two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. Raising the wage would reduce pay inequality and help millions of families living in or near poverty.
We need paid leave. The United States is one of the only developed countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid family leave – and we’re the only developed country in the world without paid maternity leave. That means many moms are forced to return to work right after giving birth to keep their jobs. They deserve more support. So do dads, LGBTQ parents, adoptive parents — families of all kinds. All of us will have times when we need to take care of ourselves and our relatives. We shouldn’t have to risk losing a job or being able to meet the basic needs of our families to do that.
And we need affordable child care. Child care for two children exceeds the median annual rent in all 50 states. How are parents supposed to work if they don’t have a safe and affordable place to leave their kids?
We at IWF want mothers to have all the support our society can give them, but we're afraid that Sandberg's recommendations, however well-intended, will not give mothers the kind of support that they need. IWF Managing Director Carrie Lukas responded to Sandberg's post yesterday in a statement. Carrie said:
"Sheryl Sandberg is right that mothers need more support in all that they do to make our families and our country run. Unfortunately though the proposals she calls for — such as requiring that all companies provide paid leave benefits and a higher minimum wage — can sadly backfire on women by making job opportunities more scarce and reducing take home pay.
"What women really need is more opportunity and more resources so they can decide what's best for their families. We need to get rid of the bureaucratic red tape that is making it hard for businesses to create jobs and cut wasteful government spending that does nothing for families and enriches the politically connected. We need government to give a pay raise to all working families in the form of long overdue tax relief. That would really help give mothers the break and support they deserve."
Carrie noted that the recommendations put forth in IWF's Working for Women: A Modern Agenda for Improving Women's Lives will do more to empower women. In particular, I would like to take note of the recent minimum wage hikes, which, while sounding so beneficial to women, have closed down restaurants and other businesses that employ working mothers.
Carrie has a special insights into the possible effects of Sandberg's recommendations because she has lived in a country that has mandatory paid family leave. In an article for the Washington Post Carrie explained how paid leave is not a magic bullet for problems confronting mothers. Carrie wrote:
Americans often hear about Europe’s superior benefits systems. Where I live in Germany, women receive 14 weeks of fully paid maternity leave and an additional 12 months of partially paid support. The upsides of such a policy are clear: Women have ample time to recover from birth and bond with their babies. Yet there are also real drawbacks, which include and go far beyond the expense for taxpayers and businesses.
Women in the European Union are more likely to work part-time and in lower-paid positions and are less likely to be managers than American women. Women hold 43 percent of managerial positions in the United States, but less than 30 percent in Germany. Research confirms that other European employment mandates and family-friendly programs — such as the right to work part-time and the mandatory provision of child care — make women more expensive to employ and result in lower take-home pay and fewer job opportunities.
I’ve seen up close what this means for women living here. While many certainly enjoy their time off from work, I’ve also heard complaints about how these policies affect careers. A married friend without children worries that her boss hesitates to give her more responsibility because he thinks she’ll inevitably disappear for a lengthy leave. Another friend — the head of her department — is frustrated with having to hold a position for an employee taking a second year-long leave. She works extra hours to train a temp while the woman on leave posts pictures from the park on Facebook and shares plans for another child.
I urge you to read the entire piece.