Em-URGE-ing Voices

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Reproductive Justice and the Workplace, is it under attack here too?

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October 26, 2012

Currently we live in a country where many women choose to take on the role of mother and worker, but what is still baffling to me and increasingly alarming is that the United States is still one of the only developed countries that don’t provide universal maternity leave to its citizens. Maternity leave is instead provided by employers, but the qualifications are vast and many women are punished for utilizing this necessary time to bond and care for their new born babies. I think there are a lot of fucked up things going on in this country but this is definitely high up on my list of fucked up bullshit. Women are the creators of life and politicians always seem to want to control women’s bodies and their access to abortion; but what happens when the babies get here? Where is all the support then?

In addition to the lack of support working women receive when they decide to become pregnant there is also the pay gap that hinders women from making what their male counterparts make for doing the same work. What also proved to be very interesting and eye opening to me was the fact that this pay inequality begins long before women become mothers. This pay gap is apparent six months to a year after graduating, and only becomes worse with time. And this gap gets even worse when you factor in race into the mix.

According to Time Magazine, African American women only make 68% of what their male co-workers make, and it’s even less for Latina women. If this is true what could possibly become the reason then, because these women are not encumbered, they are recent graduates and very highly qualified in most cases. They are free to work long hours and have the same qualifications as their male classmates, so why does this imbalance still persist? According to the Think Progress there’s also proof that if the pay gap was decreased and the pay was balanced across the board the impact could be so great it could stimulate the economy.

Even with working mothers being discriminated against we are trying to make change. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is currently being put into place and discussed and would require employers to do accommodations for women during pregnancy so that they can successfully maintain their job status. In this day at least steps are being taken to try and provide women with the means to effectively work and be parents without the backlash . The Paycheck Fairness Act is also being implemented to stop the persecution of those that try to do something about their unequal pay and may be terminated or given consequences because of it.

The powerful feminists of the 90’s advocated and fought for change, fucked shit up and took names; made the world aware of this phenomenon of unequal pay and rights for all women. Even in this new millennium we are still plagued by these issues. I attended the last national conference hosted by the American Association for University Women (AAUW), and had the opportunity of hearing the keynote speaker Lily Ledbetter discuss her story.

Lily Ledbetter started as a woman fighting for the money she felt she deserved from years and years of being paid less than her male counterparts even though she was in a position of authority. This fight went to the Supreme Court and even though she lost it eventually led to Obama signing in the Lily Ledbetter Act so women can pursue equal pay. This goes to show that these things are happening, and we need to be standing together to make them pass.
I’m happy to see that there are steps trying to be taken to help women and enable them to be successful workers and have children, but this can’t be it. We need to stand up and grab the attention for these issues. With the election less than two weeks away we need to be asking these candidates serious questions about who wants to help make things more balanced and help advocate for women’s rights. This often isn’t a forefront issue but it should be, and I for one am very interested to see the gains women can make when equal pay becomes more than just a dream and working pregnant women are celebrated rather than chastised.

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