By Danielle Marse-Kapr
Senior Advocacy and Policy Associate, Economic Empowerment, YWCA USA
Earlier this week, 10 representatives from the YWCA joined over 1,000 attendees at the White House Summit on Working Families. As anticipated, the summit highlighted issues facing working parents – particularly mothers who do paid work. There was no shortage of clout in the room as President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden, and Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden all delivered remarks. They were joined by House Leader Nancy Pelosi, Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez, and White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and the First Lady’s Chief Of Staff Tina Tchen, both of The White House Council on Women and Girls. Prominent business leaders and celebrities also attended to show their support for an agenda of public policy and cultural change that helps working families.
Speakers highlighted legislation supporting workers and furthering the progress made on women’s equality in the workplace. While these issues are often touted by women and women’s advocates, the summit correctly highlighted the fact that paid sick days, wage transparency, paid family and medical leave, fair scheduling practices for shift workers, ending pregnancy discrimination, and raising the minimum wage positively impact ALL workers, not just women.
Employers like Makini Howell of Plum Bistro and Andy Shallal of Busboys and Poets spoke to the importance of not only providing paid sick days and fair wages to food service workers but also creating a culture where workers can utilize those benefits. They encouraged employers to trust workers and confirmed that no one from their staff had abused the progressive policies.
The push for progress in the workplace was inspiring: impactful bills are on the table, employers are beginning to reflect the perspectives of Gen Y workers who value both work and family life and desire flexibility, and leaders have begun to recognize that policies that are bad for women are bad for all of us.
However, our vigilance is still incredibly important. Even as we have these valuable discussions, the Supreme Court is ruling against women workers, an uncompromising Congress bars those important bills from becoming law, and income inequality along gender, racial, and class lines is still growing in the United States.
We must hold business leaders and legislators accountable. We must vote according to our values and challenge the manner in which campaigns are financed. We must continue to shine the light on CEOs who pay abysmal wages and use predatory employment practices. Workplace fairness for all workers cannot wait. Every day that we do not make these changes, income disparities increase, women and their families slip further into poverty, and the nation fails to thrive.
Danielle Marse-Kapr has been a part of the YWCA movement for five years. Prior to beginning her work as the Senior Advocacy and Policy Associate for Economic Empowerment at YWCA USA, Danielle worked at YWCA Orange County, N.Y. as the Manager of Gender Equity Programs.