New Research on Family-Friendly Policies in the Workplace: Lessons from around the World

recent New York Times article Claire Cain Miller gives examples of some of the laws that have been passed around the world to address family and career balance:

  • Chile passed a law, the most recent version in 2009, requiring employers to provide and pay for child care for women with children under two.
  • Spain passed a law in 1999 giving workers with children younger than seven the right to ask their employers for reduced hours without fear of being laid off.
  • The United States passed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, which provides workers with twelve weeks of unpaid leave.
  • Many other countries in Europe provide long, paid maternity leaves—some up to one year—and part-time work protections.
Several new studies, summarized by Miller, have produced some disappointing findings about the “unintended consequences” of these laws for women. We need to learn from these experiences. Here are some of these findings:
  • In Chile, the result of the requirement for employers to provide child care has been a decrease in women’s starting salaries of between 9 percent and 20 percent.
  • In Spain, women’s right to work part time has resulted, a decade later, in a decline in full-time stable jobs for all women, with companies 37 percent less likely to promote women and 45 percent more likely to dismiss them.
  • In the United States, as a result of the FMLA, women are 5 percent more likely to remain employed but 8 percent less likely to be promoted than they were before the law was passed.
  • A study of twenty-two countries with family-friendly policies found that women were more likely to be in dead-end jobs and were less likely to be managers.
Clearly, this news is not good. So what are the lessons we can learn about how to get more support for working families without penalizing women?
  • Make sure employers do not bear the costs so that they do not pass them on to their employees as in Chile. Three states in the United States offer paid family leave and finance it through employee payroll taxes, which seems to be working.
  • Keep policies gender neutral and encourage both women and men to use them. In Sweden, family leave policies encourage both parents to take time off for a new baby. In most other countries, including the United States, these policies are considered to be for women, and it is nearly all women who take advantage of them. If men take advantage of family-friendly policies, perhaps they will be seen as policies for everyone, and not just for women.
  • Continue to challenge the myths about women’s careers, described in previous blogs (“Myths about Women’s Careers,” part I and part II), and work toward equal partnership with the men in our lives.
Do you have other ideas about how to overcome the unintended consequences of family-friendly policies for women? Please let us hear them. We need to figure this out together.]]>

The Gender Wage Gap for Teachers and Nurses

CNN recently reported that, among full-time workers, women earn about 78 cents to a man’s dollar, according to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This gap is more pronounced for black women (64 cents) and Latinas (56 cents) compared to every dollar earned by a white man. One of the most surprising findings for me is that this gender pay gap persists, even in female-dominated professions like teaching and nursing. For example, women hold 70 percent of elementary and middle school teaching jobs, yet men still earn more for the same role. The CNN report goes on to explain that “male teachers earn a median of $1,096 a week, whereas women earn $956—about 87 cents to the man’s dollar.” The most shocking news about the gap for me, reported in the New York Times by Catherine Saint Louis, is that the pay gap for nurses did not narrow from 1988 to 2013—twenty-five years! I was surprised that any gender pay gap exists for nurses considering that between 90 percent and 93 percent of nurses are women. I thought that surely this was one profession where there would not be a gap. But this is not the case. Here are some facts from a study of 290,000 registered nurses:

  • Overall, male nurses make $5,100 more on average per year than female colleagues in similar positions.
  • Male cardiology nurses are paid on average $6,000 more per year.
  • Male chronic care nurses make roughly $3,800 more than women.
  • Male nurse anesthetists are paid $17,290 more per year on average.
The researchers reporting these pay gaps for nurses could only speculate about the reasons for these persistent gaps:
  • Men may be better negotiators.
  • Women may have a tougher time getting promoted.
  • Only about 20 percent of nurses who work in hospitals are unionized, which may be a factor.
  • A lingering bias may persist that a man is more of an expert because he is a man.
We need to be aware of the persistent gender gap in almost all professions in the United States. As explained by Terry O’Neill in Ms. Magazine, the gender and gender/race wage gap undermines women’s economic security, and lawmakers continue to dismiss this harsh reality. She noted that, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the gap is closing so slowly that “if we keep going at the current pace, it will be the year 2058 before women have wage parity.” If you agree with me that 2058 is too long to wait, then it’s time that we get together and demand that our lawmakers take this issue seriously and legislate for pay equity.]]>