At an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission hearing Wednesday in Washington, D.C., employment and legal experts said that pregnant women and caregivers face everything from harassment and hostility on the job to terminations and decreased work hours. That’s despite a law passed 30 years ago – the Pregnancy Discrimination Act – and other measures like the Family and Medical Leave Act intended to protect workers balancing job and family obligations.
One example shared by an expert panelist at the hearing: A pregnant woman was told she couldn’t alter her uniform to fit her growing belly, but then was forced to take a leave when the uniform no longer fit. There were also tales of men who were punished for asking for time off to take care of sick or elderly relatives, because such labor was considered “women’s work.”
Sadly, stereotypes about who should provide care appear to be alive and well despite the fact that women have increasing responsibilities in the workplace and men are taking larger roles in the domestic sphere.
Low-skilled, low-wage workers are especially vulnerable since jobs like waiting tables, retail sales and other service positions often have unpredictable but inflexible schedules. That makes it harder to plan time off or deal with the kinds of small and large crises – a sudden ear infection, a fall that results in a broken hip – that crop up when you’re caring for a baby or an elderly parent.
“Culture war,” in fact, increasingly seems too vague a term for the current conversation in the country about women’s rights. That conversation is acquiring an increasingly retrograde tone, one that should cause liberals to be alarmed.
It’s hard to pinpoint where the current upsurge in dismissive rhetoric about women’s rights began. Anti-abortion sentiment has long been a staple of right-wing politics, of course. But recently, conservatives have seemed particularly fixated on Planned Parenthood. Last February, congressional Republicans sought to eliminate funding for Title X, a federal grant program that provides HIV testing, contraception, and cancer screenings (through pap smears and breast exams). Title X, Republicans claimed, was funding abortions at Planned Parenthood, which Senator Jon Kyl said did little else.
Kyl had his facts badly wrong, it turned out. Abortion represents only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services, and the organization is legally prohibited from using Title X funds to cover abortion-related expenses. This didn’t seem to bother Kyl. The Senator’s comment about Planned Parenthood’s activities “was not intended to be a factual statement,” said his spokesman. Another fact that apparently didn’t trouble him: Title X has funded the early detection, over a 20 year period, of at least 55,000 cases of cervical cancer, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
Obama preserved Title X during the budget showdown, but the administration’s attitude toward abortion and contraception has been muddled. In December, the Health and Human Services secretary overturned the Food and Drug Administration’s ruling making Plan B, commonly known as “the morning-after pill,” available to all women over the counter. A seventeen-year-old girl can get the morning-after pill without a prescription; a sixteen-year-old cannot.
Press secretary Jay Carney took aim at legislation by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. — a possible GOP vice presidential candidate — and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., that would allow any employer to deny birth control coverage if it runs counter to their religious or moral beliefs.
Another bill, by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., would go even further by allowing health plans to deny coverage for any service that violates their beliefs.
Both approaches are far more expansive than allowing conscience protections just for churches and church-affiliated employers. President Barack Obama stirred up the issue recently by trying to get religious-affiliated employers like Catholic hospitals to provide free birth control coverage to their employees. The president bowed to intense opposition last week and declared that such coverage would be provided by insurance companies instead.
Carney said both the Rubio and Blunt bills take “absolutely the wrong approach.” He said it’s vital for women no matter where they work to have access to free preventive care, including birth control.
“Women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a statement heralding the change, which was detailed at a briefing Thursday. “We will continue to open as many positions as possible to women so that anyone qualified to serve can have the opportunity to do so.”
But the move still bans them from key infantry, armor and special operations units, leaving many advocates unimpressed.
Responding to an order from Congress, the Pentagon said it was tweaking the 1994 rules on the issue:
– Women will no longer be barred from jobs simply because those jobs require those holding them to be located with ground-combat units. That means women will be able to serve as tank mechanics, radio operators and in other support billets, opening up more than 13,000 jobs to women.
– Women will be permitted to serve in 800-troop combat battalions, a smaller unit – closer to the front — than the higher-level 4,000-strong brigades where they had been limited to serving in support roles further from the action. More than a thousand jobs will be open to women under this change, although many already have been serving in those jobs as temporary “attachments.”
U.K. companies may face quotas unless they promote more women to board level, Prime Minister David Cameron warned, saying businesses are “failing” the economy by not having enough females in senior positions.
From Business Week:
Appointing women as directors and encouraging them as entrepreneurs is “about quality, not just equality,” Cameron said at a meeting of the Northern Future Forum in Stockholm today.
“The case is overwhelming that companies are run better if we have men and women alongside each other,” Cameron said in a round-table discussion. “If we can’t get there in other ways I think we have to have quotas.”
The U.K. is working to implement the recommendations of a February 2011 report by Mervyn Davies on increasing the number of women on boards, it said in a submission to the meeting. As a result, women now make up 15 percent of directors of companies in the benchmark FTSE 100 Index, up from 12.5 percent last year, and there are now only 10 all-male boards in the FTSE, down from 21 last year.
Starting in October, as a result of a new provision in the U.K. corporate-governance code, companies will have to report on their policy for boardroom diversity and how they are making progress in delivering it.
The Defense Department received 3,191 reports of sexual assault last year, Panetta said yesterday. That’s 1 percent more than the 3,158 reported in the previous fiscal year and a 19 percent increase over five years, according to an annual review released in March.
“Because we assume that this is a very underreported crime, the estimate is that the actual number is closer to 19,000,” Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon. “I deeply regret that such crimes occur in the U.S. military, and I will do all that I can to prevent these crimes from occurring.”
Among the new measures to stop what Panetta called an “unacceptable” number of sexual assaults, the military will require its sexual-assault response coordinators and victim advocates to obtain nationally recognized certification and will extend confidential reporting and victim-support services to spouses and dependents.
Liberty and justice for all is not yet a reality in America. Despite the election of our nation’s first African American president, black Americans continue to trail behind their white counterparts in education, employment, and overall health and wellbeing. And while some states and the federal government continue to expand protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, more than half of all states still deny them basic civil rights. Such systemic inequities render people of color who are also gay and transgender among the most vulnerable in our society.
In 2012, forty years after the enactment of Title IX, there are an average of 8.73 womenʼs teams per school and a total of about 200,000 female intercollegiate athletes: the highest in history.
In 1970, prior to the 1972 enactment of Title IX, there were only 2.5 womenʼs teams per school and only about 16,000 total female intercollegiate athletes. In 1977/1978, the academic year preceding the mandatory compliance date for Title IX, the number of varsity sports for women had grown to 5.61 per school.
A decade later, in 1988, the number had grown to 7.71 and at the turn of the century, the growth continued to 8.14. Today, in 2012, the average number of womenʼs teams per school sets an all time record of 8.73 giving weight to the adage: “If you build it, they will come.”
If you are a gay college student, when you apply for jobs, should you let it show on your résumé, or should you hide it? And what if your main achievements have been with an LGBT group? Should you include them on your résumé?
From the Huffington Post:
These are tough questions when you consider this sobering map from Freedom to Work showing that employers in a majority of states can legally refuse to interview you just because you are gay, lesbian, or transgender.
Data from a recent study indicate that if you want the job, then no, you shouldn't be out on your résumé. In what has been dubbed the first major audit study to test the receptiveness of employers to gay male job applicants, Andras Tilcsik, a Harvard researcher, suggests that men who identify as gay on their résumés have less success in getting selected for job interviews.
There is virtue both in being out in the workplace from day one and in changing the system from the inside. But it is crucial to not discount the importance of an LGBT-friendly work environment to making you comfortable and, ultimately, successful.
A recent report from the Center for Work-Life Policy, "The Power of Out," has shown that "for gay and lesbian employees ... a climate that fosters inclusiveness and openness is critical both to the longevity of their tenures and their ability to perform well on the job."