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A Stronger California means women’s economic empowerment

Last week, a group of California women legislators and advocates launched an initiative called A Stronger California. It is an effort to comprehensively address women’s economic security in the state through policies that reflect the reality of women’s lives.

Women’s ability to build up assets and live comfortably in retirement all hinge on the wages and jobs we have access to while we are raising children and caring for other family members. Yet we still – still – face lower wages compared to equally qualified men. We are more likely to raise children on our own, making workplace policies like fair scheduling and family leave, and the availability of quality child care, central to our daily lives. As a result, we are more likely to be in jobs that pay minimum wage, and less likely to hold the types of positions that offer the possibility of career advancement. For many women, especially women of color, it is a rigged and unfair system.

The Women’s Caucus and a mighty team of advocates have decided that this is the year to take action. And it is. These very issues are popping up in some prominent places, like the Oscar’s, the Supreme Court, and in civil courts, to name a few.  

And these are the issues we have been working on here at Next Generation: early childhood care and education, supports for families with infants and toddlers, and workplace policies that allow workers to be successful parents. No surprise to anyone, the issues that affect poor and working women also affect vulnerable children. A lack of child care keeps a single mother from working or earning enough to raise her standard of living. But that missing child care slot is also a missed opportunity for the child to be exposed to new ways of thinking and learning. The Fair Scheduling Act, also included in the Stronger California agenda, is another example of this. Out of basic fairness, workers should know their work schedules in advance; people need to plan for more in their lives than just their jobs. But often children are hit hardest by unpredictable schedules: as parents scramble to arrange child care they are often forced to compromise trusted, quality care for whatever is immediately available.

The band of women who brought this agenda together is a formidable one. Given their leadership, I am full of hope that these bills will be passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Brown. And California will be stronger for it.

Cumulative Lost Earnings By Full-Time Working Women in Fourth Quarter of 2010

 

Figure 1 This chart caused me to fume. Source: Department of Labor, Office of the Chief Economist analysis of BLS' Current Population Survey.

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