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Valerie Young's picture

We’re poised at a sweet spot between the release of The Shriver Report in January, and the arrival of March as Women’s History Month. Momentum is growing for paid leave and paid sick days, candidates for the 2014 mid-term elections are shaping their campaigns, and think tanks in DC are churning out data on women at a furious pace.

Nancy Pelosi and Kirsten Gillibrand have been pushing their Women’s Economic Opportunity Agenda with legislation to promote pay equity, paid leave, paid sick days, accessible and affordable child care, and an end to discrimination against pregnant workers. Under the banner “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds,” the legislation will have hard time in Congress, but it serves as both a model and rallying point for advocates around the country. It’s gaining traction, and the Valentine’s Day campaign got lots of attention from other members of Congress and women like you. Take a look at all the photo love here. Follow #WhatWomenNeed on Twitter and you’ll see the synergy.

State legislatures have put together their own women’s equality bills, mobilizing advocates with no patience for the glacial legislative pace of Capitol Hill. Similar proposals for pay equity, paid leave and an end to caregiver discrimination have been introduced in Nebraska and Minnesota. The  New York legislature actually passed the package. Heavens be praised.

One Washington think tank is devoting a big portion of its resources to care issues. The New America Foundation is now under the direction of Anne Marie Slaughter, a woman of distinguished career and author of the high profile Atlantic magazine article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”  A whole new effort has been launched at New America called The Caregiving and Breadwinning Program, led by Liza Mundy, who wrote The Richer Sex; How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners is Transforming Our Culture. Making the point that workers and carers are predominantly the same people and require a very different workplace than our current structure, the program describes its mission:

We aim to create a community engaged in issues that include work-family balance, improved access to child care, our changing definition of family, education gender imbalance, discrimination in the workplace, opportunities for female leadership and the global context. The program seeks to create a public environment that’s hospitable to change through powerful writing and informed debate about carers and families, their strengths and their needs.

Doesn’t that just ring my bell? After watching the issues we care about languishing in the desert for so long, seeing this attention devoted to them nearly makes me swoon.

A recent panel discussion at New America featured Anne Marie Slaughter, Joan C. Williams and Rachel Dempsey. It wove individual stories with data and scholarship about women, work, mothering, and how not to sell ourselves short. If you have even a few minutes, you couldn’t do better than to spend them watching What Works for Women at Work. You will learn about your own life no matter where on the care spectrum you currently find yourself. It’s a great discussion.

A lot of smart people are directing their efforts towards making our society a fairer, more caring and nurturing place, both at home and at work, for infants and elders, and all those who offer care. Moms fit squarely in this space, as our care work of children and others blunts our economic security, limits our options at work, and makes us far more vulnerable than men in later life to poverty.

If you support this work, call or email your members of Congress and tell them you believe in paid family leave insurance, paid sick days, pay equity and better, more affordable child care. In fact, tell  them that if they don’t support these policies, you won’t vote for them. If the people will lead, the leaders will follow.

‘Til next time,

Your (Wo)Man in Washington

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