What do working women and their families want?

This coming Sunday marks the 87th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote.To mark that auspicious occasion, Speak Out California has asked the Legislative Women’s Caucus chair, 1st District Assemblymember Patty Berg (D-Eureka), to fill us in on what the 34 women of the legislature have established as their top priority for the year. This is her report.

What do working women and their families want? Is it better paid family leave policies so they can take care of their children or their sick loved ones? Do they want to make sure their children have health insurance and affordable, quality child care? Or do working moms want pay equity with working dads?
If you answer “yes” to any of those questions, you are not alone. The California Legislative Women’s Caucus agrees with you. The Women’s Caucus, comprised of the 34 women serving in the State Senate and Assembly, is working on the overarching theme that encompasses the challenges facing working moms throughout the state: how do we create workplaces that accommodate women’s care-giving responsibilities?
The Women’s Caucus has made working families its top priority this year. We are examining what policies we need to implement in order to better balance work and family responsibilities. As women and men, we are in the workplace to provide for ourselves and our families. Sometimes, though, we have to be home to care for them. A baby cannot be left alone nor should an ailing relative who needs care.
What if your sister had breast cancer and needed your help with her children? You’d probably get there as fast as you could. And you shouldn’t have to worry about losing your job or your home to do it. You should be able to depend on a flexible working schedule or on paid family leave at times of family crisis.
Earlier this summer, Move-On.org co-founder and author, Joan Blades and members of the advocacy group Momsrising.org, met with members of the Women’s Caucus. Blades, who co-wrote The Motherhood Manifesto,believes that simple policies such as paid sick leave, equal pay for equal work and flexible schedules should be regarded as basic minimums in the workplace. She contends that these policies, among others, strengthen the bonds of a working family and enrich the entire community. We in the Women’s Caucus share those beliefs.
Our Women’s Caucus found the meeting to be extremely helpful to us in our efforts to establish policy priorities for the state. It was also very helpful to connect with groups such as “Momsrising.org” who are so committed to assisting working women obtain the rights and benefits of the workplace that they deserve.
We believe that these types of meetings and conversations need to take place in a broader format, open to more people and dealing with the whole spectrum of workplace issues. So on August 24th 2007, several caucus members will join Congressional Representative Lynn Woolsey for a Town Hall meeting in Santa Rosa, California. At that meeting, she will discuss her House Resolution 2392, the “Balancing Act” legislation, which is designed to enact on a national level, a California-style paid family leave program which addresses child care assistance and flexible work schedules. Other groups will also share their visions of family-friendly policies that California should consider adopting.
We hope to replicate this “Town Hall” approach to workplace concerns throughout the state.
Not only is the Legislative Women’s Caucus focused on improving life on the home-front, but on the battlefield as well. Our caucus is partnering with the Congressional Women’s Caucus to hold a roundtable discussion in November, 2007 in San Diego, on women in the military. Today we have a record number of women serving in armed combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are concerned that the military is not adquately addressing gender differences in coping with post-traumatic stress disorder and re-entry/reintegration into home and family life after deployment. We believe strongly that the needs of these women must be met appropriately and effectively.
We, as the Legislative Women’s Caucus, believe that we must strive to strengthen our families and keep our commitment to our soldiers and women in the workforce. Our society will flourish only if our families are strong. But this can only happen if we change the way our military and work force, in general, treat our women soldiers and employees.
The policies we adopt must allow working women to care for themselves and others without fear of losing their jobs, their homes or their dignity. The role and responsibility of government in protecting these basic rights is critical. We’re committed to ensuring we succeed in doing the job, as women are in doing theirs.