Yesterday was International Women’s Day which was created to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality.

Women in the United States have a lot of achievements to celebrate–certainly more so than many other countries.  That being said, the United States still has a ways to go with respect to women’s rights and that is most apparent in the employment context.  Below is a summary of hot button women’s issues in the workplace and notes about what people can do to advocate for greater equality and improvement in these areas.

  1. Unequal Pay: The recent Sony hack revealed that even top-notch actresses (Jennifer Lawrence!) and top female executives were paid far less than their male counterparts.  If women with this much industry power are paid less than what they should be you can bet that average working women face this ten-fold.   Absent your employer getting hacked liked Sony did it is difficult for women to know if they are, indeed, being paid what they should be.  The White House calls the issue of Equal Pay a “Family Issue” which it is if the woman happens to have a family but it is, most importanty, a gender disrimination issue. Regardless of whether or not a woman has a family to support she deserves to be paid the same as a man.  To read more about the White House’s thoughts on the issue and what has been done to solve this problem go to:
  2. Family Responsibility Discrimination:Last week we posted a link to a recent article on our Facebook page in which a woman admitted that before she had children of her own she discriminated against her co-workers who had kids.  In the article, she admits to making a number of discriminatory assumptions about women who had kids such as assuming they would not work as hard or be as dedicated to their jobs.  We see this all the time in our practice and it drives me crazy.  So many of the assumptions that are made about mothers in the workplace are so wrong and this article compares the assumptions against the realities.  Courts have interpreted family responsibility discrimination claims as gender-based claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act but parental status is not a separate category protected from discrimination.  Perhaps it should be?  Read this article and see what you think:
  3. Paid Sick Leave:  This one really hits lower income women and part-time employees and it is a major problem.Certain Illinois groups including Women Employed are spearheading a move for Paid Sick Days in Illinois and Chicago.  In the last election on February 24, 82% of Chicago voters voted in favor of a non-binding referendum for paid sick days.  The next step is to translate this support to ordinances and state statutes.  To read more about what you can do go to:
  4. Maternity Leave: Our highest reaching Facebook post ever was was a link to an article about a company called Vodaphone which announced that it would, by the end of 2015, start offering a minimum of 16 weeks paid maternity leave plus, during the six months after returning from maternity leave, the opportunity to work a reduced schedule while still receiving full time pay.  For a long time I have contended that policies like this will save companies money by allowing them to retain valuable employees.  For US Vodaphone emplyoees this will be a huge improvement over what federal law requires:  which is a mere 12 weeks of unpaid leave.  United States is the only developed country to not offer any sort of paid leave to parents.  Click here for a nice chart which evidences that depressing fact:

The only way to change this is to either hope your company becomes enlightened like Vodaphone or start advocating for changes to the law.  There is no reason that the United States cannot be on par with the countries above.  One of the groups advocating for change can be found here:

Also, here is a link to the article that garnered so much interest:

Here’s hoping that next International Women’s Day we will be celebrating major progress on all these issues!