Opinion: On this Equal Pay Day, let’s break down the maternal wall


And it gets worse.

There’s a grim reality in America: being a mother is a bigger predictor of wage and hiring discrimination than gender — and because of structural racism, black, brown, Indigenous and other mothers of color have compounded the wage discrimination and hiring. The data is shocking. According to the National Women’s Law Center, Latina mothers earn only 46 cents, Native American mothers only 50 cents, and black mothers only 52 cents for a white father’s dollar. Moms, on average, are only paid 75 cents for every dollar that white dads are paid, according to that same study.
In her response to President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address, Republican Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds mentioned the words “mom”, “parents” or “families” nearly a dozen of times, coming crescendo by saying that “parents matter”. But his speech lacked any mention of the care infrastructure policies that really, really matter to parents (the ones Biden rightly raised in his speech).
Let’s be clear: If families really mattered to Republican leaders, they wouldn’t be focused on banning important books, restricting access to reproductive health care, and attacking LGBTQ+ children. Instead, they would focus on building the care infrastructure America needs, which would go a long way toward breaking down the “mother wall,” the barrier of prejudice that mothers face in the workplace. and in our lives.

This maternal wall holds back the majority of women in America, and its extreme wage gaps hurt not only mothers, wives, parents, and families, but also our communities, businesses, and economy.

According to Pew Research, more than 85% of women become mothers before the age of 44, including the majority of never-married women – and, crucially, the majority of families depend on mothers’ earnings to make ends meet, according to the Center for American Progress.
It should also be remembered that in our consumer-driven economy, women and mothers make the majority of purchasing decisions. So when we don’t have money to spend on groceries, or to get our kids new shoes to fit their growing little toes, or for school supplies, or to fill up our gas tanks and more so, there are negative ripple effects on our entire economy.
If we take action to close the wage gap by implementing solutions already at hand, our country’s GDP would increase by almost 3% and women’s poverty would be cut in half, according to the Institute for Women’s PolicyResearch.
To be clear, breaking the maternal wall is absolutely and eminently possible. In fact, many care infrastructure measures that would address this crisis are currently being considered in Congress and are political priorities for the Biden administration.
Studies show that adopting care infrastructure policies that cover people of all genders would not only boost our economy and help families, but also go a long way toward closing the wage gap between mothers and non-mothers. mothers – and therefore between women and men. And a recent study found that building healthcare infrastructure would boost our country’s long-term real GDP growth by 10 to 15 basis points.
These care infrastructure policies include paid family/medical leave when a new baby arrives or a serious health crisis strikes us or a loved one, as every other industrialized country has done before. Access to quality and affordable childcare and pre-kindergarten services, living wages for all social workers, equitable healthcare and maternal health care, earned sick time, the monthly child tax credit and home and community services for the elderly and disabled are also an integral part of the care infrastructure policy.
Unsurprisingly, these policies not only help reduce the wage gap, they also help parents stay in much-needed jobs consistently and help businesses thrive, because with a care infrastructure in place, people aren’t being pushed out of their jobs when childcare can’t be found or when serious illness strikes or a new baby arrives. It also helps to reduce inflation, as consistent participation in the workforce solves supply chain issues, which, in turn, helps to reduce inflation.
To add to the argument for adopting these policies immediately, adequate care infrastructure also helps reduce family costs. Take, for example, child care, which is one of the biggest expenses for families, costing more than rent or college in most states and 30% of income for low-income families. according to Child Care Aware.
Creating an affordable, accessible and quality childcare and preschool system would significantly reduce family costs and, at the same time, bring a significant return on investment for taxpayers, because children who have early learners do better in school when they’re older — and mothers who can stay in the workforce need less government support over time.
In addition to care infrastructure policies, we also need non-discrimination policies like the Paycheck Fairness Act, which adds labor protections against unfair wages and prohibits retaliation for job sharing. salary information. This is partly because, as the majority of women are in paid employment, mothers in particular have also invested a huge amount of unpaid, devalued and unaccounted for care work worth trillions of dollars per year. The devaluation of this unpaid work translates into a lower valuation of the paid work done by mothers in the form of wage discrimination, and in particular paid work in care industries.
Unsurprisingly, since care infrastructure policies energize women, mothers, parents, and families, help combat systemic inequalities, and boost our economy, their adoption is also hugely popular with Republican, Democratic, and independent voters. . In fact, recent polls show that a strong majority of American adults support federal funding for paid family and medical leave.

This spring we will begin a rhetorical courtship that we have seen before. Both parties will tailor campaign messages to an incredibly important constituency: moms. But we will need more than flowery words, empty promises or red herrings. Now our nation – and our nation’s moms – need permanent, nationwide policy change that supports our first caregivers and pushes us to overcome the barriers that are holding back not just moms, but our entire country. It’s high time for Congress to update our outdated care infrastructure policies and advance fairness so that our families, our businesses, our economy, and our country can thrive — and so moms can do the important work we need to do in our homes and workplaces.


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