Let’s Treat Women Workers like Millennials and Give them what they Want: Lifting Up the Need for Supports and Childcare for Women in the Workforce During the Pandemic and After

Let’s Treat Women Workers like Millennials and Give them what they Want: Lifting Up the Need for Supports and Childcare for Women in the Workforce During the Pandemic and After

Employers have created millennial-friendly offices that take into account that workers need and value in order to be successful. Why haven’t we done the same for women?

By C. Nicole Mason

Over the past decade, there have been hundreds of articles written about how to accommodate  millennials in the workplace. Millennials, now the largest segment in the workplace, value work-life balance, flexible work schedules, and more relaxed work attire. The 1960s work culture of late hours, stale suits, and jobs where employees feel undervalued are non-negotiables for this cohort of workers. Employers have responded, creating millennial-friendly offices that take into account what these workers need and value in order to be successful in the jobs. The question is why haven’t we done the same for women?

 At the start of the year, women made up more than 50 percent of the workforce and a majority or primary or co-breadwinners, earning at least 40 percent of all household earnings. The number of the women in the workforce has fallen dramatically since start of the Pandemic. Women now comprise 49.2 percent of all workers, still close to half of all U.S. workers.  Despite the number of women in the workforce, employer practices and policies haven’t shifted to accommodate their needs or provided work supports that would make them successful in their jobs and help them advance in their careers. For the most part, employers still use a “Mad Men” workplace model centered around a male breadwinner, who can work endless hours and has a stay-at-home wife. This model is outdated and hasn’t been a reality for decades.


In 2019, in 49 percent of married-couple families both the husband and wife were employed. The rate of married-couple families where only the husband was employed is just 18.5 percent. In families with children, 91.3 percent of parents work outside of the home and one in two of more than 30 million families in the U.S. with children under the age of 18 have a breadwinner mother.

Long gone are the days where women’s income accounted for a minor share of household income and workforce participation was optional. This was never the case for Black and Latino women, whose income has consistently made a considerable portion of their household incomes.

COVID-19 and its impact has exposed the fragility of the U.S. economy and the healthcare system, and has shed light on the dual role women workers hold: Primary wage earner and primary care giver. With schools out, childcare centers closed, and stay-home-orders in effect across the country, the caretaking demands placed upon mothers have increased significantly, forcing many working mothers into a near impossible position: take care of their children or risk losing their job.

Smiling mom holding kid daughter curious about cooking in kitche

In a recent Op-Ed in the Washington Post, Melinda Gates rightfully points this out. She says, “It’s always been women who shoulder the burden of care. Even when most women work full-time outside the home, they still spend two hours more each day on household tasks and caregiving.”

Gates is not alone. Sheryl Sandberg, LeanIn co-Founder, is also sounding the alarm.  Women, she says, were already working a “double shift. The pandemic is creating a “double double shift. “It’s pushing women to the breaking point.”

Gates and Sandberg join a cacophony of women’s advocates and organizations, such as the National Partnership for Women and Families, the National Women’s Law Center, and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research that have long been calling for better work and family policies that would ensure that women not only have access to quality jobs, but have the necessary supports to ensure that they are able to keep them.

Now is the time to create an economy and workplaces that work for more than half of the American workforce: women. It’s long overdue. National paid sick and family leave, childcare supports and employer-sponsor or subsidized facilities, and flexible work schedules would go a long-way towards this effort. If we can do it for millennials, we can do it for women too.

Get to Know the Paycheck Fairness Act

Get to Know the Paycheck Fairness Act

To close the pay gap, we need good public policies at the state, local and federal levels. Encouraging women to negotiate a higher salary doesn’t do much if there are institutional and structural barriers that prevent her from earning her value in the labor market. These barriers include entrenched and institutionalized gender norms and expectations, pay secrecy, policies that allow employers to request salary history, and placing undue burdens on women to prove pay discrimination and limiting the remedies available to them.

The Paycheck Fairness Act Would:

  • Prohibit employers from using salary history which ensures that salaries are not based on prior pay disparities that can follow workers from job to job.
  • Protect against retaliation for discussing pay with colleagues, including stopping employers from being able to fire employees for sharing information. Greater transparency about salary is key to helping identify disparities.
  • Ensure equal pay for equal work, requiring employers to prove that any pay disparities that exist between men and women are a business necessity and job-related.
  • Equalize discrimination claims based on gender, race, and ethnicity, so plaintiffs who file claims under the Equal Pay Act have the same robust remedies as those who make claims under other laws.
  • Support employers and employees to achieve fair pay practices, including providing technical assistance to employers, requiring wage data collection, and offering salary negotiation training programs to give women the tools to advocate for higher wages.

The 2019 Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) is sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). Passing the Act would help accelerate the closing of the pay gap by addressing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963, ensuring that women and men are paid equally for equal work.

For more information, visit AAUW.

Get Your Money: How to Negotiate Your Salary

Get Your Money: How to Negotiate Your Salary

How to Negotiate Your Salary

Do Your Research. Talk to people in your field and go online to search up the going salary for your position.

Toot your own Horn. Come to the discussion prepared to talk about your accomplishments, contributions to the company or the unique skills and talents you bring to the table. Create a brag sheet—a one-page summary of your recent wins.

Play it Smart. In salary negotiations, have a number in mind, but allow the employer make the first offer. Then state your expectation and take it from there.

Start at the Top. If there’s a salary band, start at the top. No need to low ball yourself. It allows wiggle room for negotiation.

Remember salary is only a part of the package. You can negotiate more than salary. Benefits like vacation, retirement contribution, transportation costs, tuition assistance, and schedule flexibility can also be negotiated.

Get out of your head. Negotiating a salary or raise can be anxiety producing. Focus on the reasons why you deserve the raise or desired salary (hint: you’re awesome) and don’t apologize for knowing your worth.

Be patient. Take time to think about an offer and be willing to make a counteroffer if necessary.

Honor your worth. Focus on the big picture and gauge for yourself what is important, when to drop an issue, and how to stay firm but respectful with what you want. If the offer is too low and you won’t be happy, it’s OK to walk away.

To learn more about salary negotiation, sign up for AAUW’s free online course here: https://salary.aauw.org/

Out in the Open: Stopping Work Retaliation Against Salary Sharing

Out in the Open: Stopping Work Retaliation Against Salary Sharing

You understand the importance of salary transparency. You know that you can better advocate for yourself when you know what your coworkers are earning. But what do you do if your employer has policies discouraging or preventing you from sharing salary information? And worse, what do you do if your employer threatens or punishes you for talking about your salary?

Retaliation is a form of employment discrimination or harassment. It can take many forms including but not limited to discipline, demotion, firing, salary reduction, or job or shift reassignment. Salary sharing is a protected activity, meaning it is a federal labor right. But many employers, especially in the private sector, continue to retaliate against employees for discussing salary because the punishment for doing so is insignificant; employers may be forced to provide backpay or rehire wrongfully terminated employees.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would protect workers by strengthening punishments for employers who commit equal pay violations. Support the Paycheck Fairness Act and protect your right to share salary information for collective bargaining.

Spilling the Tea: Why Salary Transparency is Necessary for Pay Equity

Spilling the Tea: Why Salary Transparency is Necessary for Pay Equity

Knowledge is power—especially when it comes to your paycheck. When employers are open about their payscales and criteria for evaluating raises and promotions, employees can make informed decisions about whether they are being paid fairly and whether it is appropriate to negotiate for a higher salary or promotion. This is important for all women, who earn less than men in all but five occupations, but especially important for women of color, for whom the gender wage gap is magnified by a racial and ethnic earnings gap. Employers who promote pay secrecy perpetuate the gender wage gap, as a result of which women earn $0.82 per $1 that their male counterparts earn.


Though federal law affirms that workers have a right to discuss their salaries with one another, many employers, particularly in the private sector, have policies that discourage or prohibit sharing salary information. The Paycheck Fairness Act would strengthen protections for workers who openly discuss their salaries, reveal workplace bias and disparity in pay, and put the impetus on employers to prove that any pay discrepancies are a business necessity. By passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, workers can hold employers accountable and make sure they are earning what they deserve.

The Time for Paid Leave for All is Now

The Time for Paid Leave for All is Now

By C. Nicole Mason and Jeffrey Hayes

Twenty-seven years ago, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) became law, providing crucial job protection to workers when they welcome a new child or take necessary time off to care for a family member. The landmark legislation ensures that workers do not have to choose between their jobs and families when faced with life changes or serious health challenges.

What we know is that companies thrive, families benefit, and employees feel secure knowing they can rely on FMLA. For more than two decades, FMLA has helped millions of workers to balance work and family needs.

Unfortunately, FMLA only covers only about 60 percent of the workforce, leaving many of the most vulnerable workers without coverage or support to take time off to care for their families or meet unforeseen serious health needs.

Although a critical building block for family economic security, leave provided under the FMLA is unpaid. For low-wage workers, and others who live paycheck to paycheck taking unpaid leave can have a devastating impact on their overall economic well-being.

As we reflect on how FMLA might be strengthened and what kinds of public policies at the local, state and federal levels will be necessary to win economic equity for families in the coming years, several states are leading the way on paid family and medical leave. They include: California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, and Washington. These programs provide partial wage replacement to covered workers for all the FMLA reasons.

In Washington, DC the Paid Family Leave Act will be fully operational on July 1, 2020, and three more states—Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Oregon–are currently implementing laws.

In the states where there is paid family medical leave is the law—families are healthier, and workers are able to take care of their loved ones with less fear of losing their job or retaliation.

There’s no doubt–the time is now for a national, comprehensive paid leave policy that covers family and medical events for all workers, in all sectors.

A worker starting their career in 1993 when FMLA became law is now approaching retirement. We cannot let another generation of workers balance work and caring for loved ones without updating our policies for the 21st century.

Quantifying the Impact of the Global Gag Rule: What 2020 Candidates Should Know

By Anna Bernstein

Abortion has not been a top issue raised in Democratic debates so far, despite the growing number of threats to access across the country. But with strong support of abortion rights among the long list of candidates, the 2020 election provides an opportunity to eliminate federal funding restrictions on abortion. Notably, these restrictions go beyond funding within the United States, with the Global Gag Rule playing a key role in U.S. aid abroad.

U.S. taxpayer dollars have been prohibited from being used for abortion care since 1973, through the Helms Amendment, which states that no foreign assistance can be used to pay for abortion services as a means of family planning.

The Global Gag Rule takes this type of restriction even further. Formally called the Mexico City policy, the rule places strict limits on U.S. global health aid by preventing U.S. aid-funded organizations from providing information or services about abortion. It requires foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to agree that they will not “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning” with any funding—regardless of whether the United States is the source of those funds—as a condition for receiving U.S. family planning assistance. The rule was first announced by the Reagan Administration and has subsequently been revoked and reinstated by Democratic and Republican presidents, respectively.

But the Trump Administration went even further in enacting the policy. The Global Gag Rule was expanded by President Trump in 2017 to include most other forms of U.S. global health assistance, rather than just family planning funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State. This extends the rule to affect a funding pool 15 times larger than that of the George W. Bush-era policy.

Work is being done to document the effects of this iteration of the Global Gag Rule. The policy has led to diminished reproductive health and humanitarian aid services, disruption to non-U.S. donors, reduced advocacy work, and high costs for organizations attempting to comply with the policy. Qualitative research has demonstrated exacerbated barriers to health care, funding gaps, and overall confusion and misunderstanding among the global health community.

In addition to this evidence, a few studies have examined past implementations of the Global Gag Rule to measure the effects on fertility and other outcomes. These studies provide estimates of the impact of the policy on a range of countries in sub-Saharan Africa, allowing researchers to quantify what impact this rule has had in the past—and providing insight to what may be occurring with the latest iteration of the policy.

Bendavid et al. (2011) evaluated whether the gag rule was associated with changes in the inferred abortion rate in 20 African countries. The authors compared the periods of 1994 to 2000 and 2001 to 2008, around the 2001 reinstatement of the rule by George W. Bush. Countries that received higher assistance for family planning and reproductive health when the policy was not in place were classified as high-exposure countries.

The analysis found that the inferred abortion rate significantly increased for women in those countries once the Global Gag Rule was implemented: after adjusting for a number of related factors, women in highly-exposed countries were over two and a half times as likely to have an abortion. So even though this policy is put into place by politicians opposing abortion, the abortion rate goes up while it is in effect. This is likely due to reduced access to contraceptive services caused by the rule’s limits on U.S. family planning aid.

Jones (2011) took this type of evaluation further by examining actual abortion data within one country—Ghana—and using actual woman-level data rather than estimations. Unlike Bendavid et al., Jones analyzes the effects over three changes in the policy’s implementation rather than just 2001.

The findings are once again counterintuitive to the stated goal of the Global Gag Rule: no demographic group reduced use of abortion. Instead, women in rural areas actually increased their abortion use when the policy was in effect.

Jones is also able to quantify why this increase in abortion use occurred. She finds that the lack of contraceptives available during the years of the policy caused a 12 percent increase in pregnancies to rural women.

More recent research by Brooks et al. provides even more evidence that the Global Gag Rule increases abortion prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa. Again, a reduction in contraceptive use is found, paired with an increase in abortion rates in countries with high levels of exposure to the policy.

These rigorous evaluations provide evidence that the Global Gag Rule not only reduces access to contraceptive services—it actually increases use of abortion. Forty-five percent of abortions are unsafe, with the proportion even higher in countries with more restrictive abortion laws. By cutting off access to safe abortion services, while also reducing access to contraception, it may be pushing even more women and girls to seek unsafe abortion.

This research illuminates some of the important, and often overlooked, effects of U.S. policies. Not only will the 2020 election determine access to reproductive health services in the United States, but it also has the potential to impact the health of women and girls around the world.

Read recent research on the economic effects of access to abortion and contraception from IWPR’s Center on the Economics of Reproductive Health.