Advocating for government support for working families

Mar 8, 2024

The lack of paid parental leave and universal childcare are a matter of women’s rights in several ways. For example, moms tend to take on the burden of domestic labor and consequently suffer the motherhood penalty - and many childcare providers are women themselves.

But paid leave and childcare are also more broadly societal issues because when a woman can’t perform her job due to short, unpaid parental leave and inaccessible childcare, the entire economy suffers.

Knowing what issues our elected officials prioritize - especially during an election year - is critical for U.S. citizens who support policies that help working families.

Congresswoman Katherine Clark is one such representative who fights for families. 

The mother of three has represented Massachusetts’ Fifth District since 2013 and is currently serving as Democratic Whip. Known as a “problem-solver for women’s rights,” she is now the highest-ranking woman in congressional leadership–and only one of two women ever to hold this position.

Two of the biggest initiatives she supports are passing federal paid family leave and affordable, universal childcare - policies she believes will not only help working families, but the workforce and economy as well.

Childcare should be considered public infrastructure

If it wasn’t clear enough before, the pandemic illuminated that women's work has always replaced a government-funded social safety net. 

“We underpay or don't pay equally for women's work,” Rep. Clark said. “And then we rely on the work of women to care for our own children as they are unable to afford working full-time and more than full-time to care for their own families on the wages they're paid.”

Ending this cycle requires acknowledging that care should be professionalized as part of a broader public education system so that providers get paid what they’re worth and, as a result, parents pay less. 

Paid parental leave is a bi-partisan issue

For paid parental leave in particular, Rep. Clark says it’s more than a nice-to-have for parents and it’s not a partisan issue. These hard dollars lead to economic success—and she hears from large enterprises and SMBs on the issue all the time. 

As a small business, Parentaly offers generous paid parental leave because it’s the right thing to do - and having employees in states that help fund family leave has been hugely beneficial to the company:

“Every time I have somebody going on parental leave in a state that offers a government program, I am so happy,” she said. “It is so good for our business. We are able to hire more people, and we are expanding the pie for everyone by just getting a tiny bit of help to help us support those folks to go out, take the time that they need and then come back.”

What companies and citizens can do to help push these policies forward

There are a lot of powerful influences in Congress, but corporate America has a huge influence - particularly with Rep. Clark’s Republican colleagues - who often vote against policies around family leave and childcare:

“I don't think you will hear any member of Congress on the campaign trail who doesn't talk about fighting for families and kitchen table issues and wanting to make things better for folks at home, but where are your votes? Where’s the money?” 

To help influence change, Rep. Clark believes that Congress needs to hear from more business leaders explaining the positive economic impact family-forward policies contribute: 

“And they need to hear from businesses, not only the success when they are offering private benefits of childcare, but when they are offering rich paid leave, the difference in their retention rates, tell those stories,” she said. 

And for the rest of us, we must advocate with our votes. As Rep. Clark puts it:

“When you're at a local election or a local forum for congressman, senator, president, raise the question, ‘Where do you stand on parental leave?”

To hear more about what Congresswoman Clark stands for and how to better advocate for working families, tune into the full episode of The False Tradeoff.