Let’s Celebrate in March!

March is Women’s History Month – let’s celebrate!  In 1987, Congress declared the month of March as Women’s History Month to honor women’s contributions in American history. This is an opportunity to highlight the women who paved the way for women’s equal rights.  But, let’s not forget to praise the women who, on a daily basis, continue the real struggle for equal pay, family leave, and sick leave.

More than one-half of women participate in the workforce. However, women in Iowa still earn less than men, 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. For African American and Hispanic women, the gap is even greater. An estimated 71.7% of mothers are the sole, primary, or co-breadwinners in Iowa families. The need for pay equity is critical for a family’s economic well-being.

Paid family and sick leave have been highlighted this campaign cycle. Paid leave allows new mothers and fathers to bond with their baby after birth or a child after adoption; it allows family care givers time off to care for their loved ones, and it allows parents to care for their sick children. Nationally, only 12% of workers have access to employer-sponsored paid family leave. There are a number of benefits to support paid leave, but a low number of employers offer the benefits. This becomes not only a financial struggle for families but a struggle to find the work-family balance.

Women struggle to find access to affordable, high-quality child care. In Iowa, 76% of children under age 6 have all available parents working outside of the home, thus needing alternative care. Yet, the cost of child care, in some instances, can exceed annual tuition at one of Iowa’s Regent universities. This can pinch a family’s monthly budget and leave parents with challenging child care decisions.

Equal pay, paid leave, child care – these are family issues and they are women’s issues. We continue to get closer to choosing the candidates to face off in November. As we wait to cast our vote, stay informed. The Digital Dialogue is a tool designed to keep voters up-to-date on the issues facing women, families, and our kids.