CAMBRIDGE, Mass. —The White House, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Center for American Progress held a forum in Cambridge last week about solutions to help working families. It is part of a series of regional meetings leading up to the Working Families Summit in Washington D.C. on June 23.
The forum kicked off with Senator Elizabeth Warren speaking, along with Representative Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Massachusetts representative Katherine Clark.
Warren, DeLauro and Clark addressed both the explicit and subtle gender bias women face in the workforce today.
“The deck is stacked against working families,” said Senator Warren. “Women still, on average, earn 77 cents on the dollar for what men earn… We need equal pay for equal work. I cannot believe we are having this discussion in 2014.”
Not only is the pay unequal, but when women are taking care of children, workplace policies can make it even more difficult.
“We’re the only advanced economy in the world without paid maternity leave,” said representative DeLauro. “We need to support women entrepreneurs, invest in job training and education, and end discrimination against pregnant women, they’re still being let go.”
The forum included a panel of experts to highlight some solutions to these issues for working families in Boston and beyond.
The panel included President and CEO of Roxbury Technology Corporation, Beth Williams; President of the Institute for Women’s policy research, Heidi Hartmann; Rhode Island State Senator Gayle Goldin; and Rachel Kaprielian, the secretary of labor and workforce development in Massachusetts. The Executive Director of Woman and Public Policy program at Harvard, Victoria Budson, moderated the panel.
Senator Goldin helped spearhead legislation to make Rhode Island one of only three states in the country to offer temporary caregiver paid leave.
Goldin talked about what inspired her to advocate for paid leave. Goldin and her sister both became parents around the same time. She noticed her sister, who lives in Montreal, received 50 weeks of paid leave and Goldin received none. In addition, earlier that year Goldin had fallen 16 feet and broke her back.
“It’s rare for somebody to not have a life experience in which you realize how much you need a little bit of time off from work that is paid that will still keep money in your pocket so you can deal with the family emergency,” Senator Goldin said. “And that is true of almost every member of the Rhode Island general assembly and that’s why it really resonated.”
Goldin hopes that the paid leave model can be used in other states as well.
Leah Magee, Director of membership development for the Mass Technology Leadership Council attended the forum to get ideas for ways to encourage women to enter the fields of technology and engineering. Magee said it was helpful to hear from the members of congress and the panelists speak out about the current trends and statistics involving working families.
“[I think] coming together to really help pass this reform that so many before us have been trying to pass – the leave act, paid sick time, increasing the minimum wage,” Magee said. “All of that really helps what we’re doing to help get more women into engineering and tech.”
The Working Families Summit on June 23 in Washington, D.C. will encapsulate the discussions made in each of the regional forums. The summit is part of President Obama’s initiative to help create workplaces that allow working families to thrive.