The New Hampshire Women’s Foundation is a member of the legislative Task Force on Work and Family, whose purpose is to identify the multiple barriers that keep New Hampshire workers from achieving economic security and maximizing their contributions to the state’s economy as well as attending to family responsibilities.
This year we were part of an effort to secure a grant from the US Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau, which recently announced $1.55 million in grants to eight states and localities to study the feasibility of developing and expanding statewide paid family and medical leave programs. The NH Women’s Foundation will participate in a sizeable grant received by the NH Department of Employment Securities. The objective of the proposal is to assess the costs and benefits of various paid family leave insurance programs in NH in order to consider creative state-specific approaches to paid leave, how to maximize the effectiveness of the program, and to broaden our understanding of the different patterns of leave taking for men and women. The NH Women’s Foundation will assist in disseminating the research findings by organizing regional meetings to inform interested stakeholders and legislators about the various potential paid family leave scenarios. While millions of Americans have to juggle both work and care-giving in their families, only 12% of private-sector workers are granted paid family leave by their employers. For the rest, the lack can be devastating. Employed parents with low wages, part-time workers, those in small firms, and mothers are themost vulnerable. Data shows that between 10% and 30% of New Hampshire
employers offered paid family leave to their employees in 2011, depending on the size of the business.
The Department of Labor said the following in their press release for the grant: “The United States is one of the few countries on Earth without national paid leave. Fortunately, we have seen remarkable progress outside of Washington, where innovative state and local officials are designing paid-leave policies that work for their citizens. These studies will help further our understanding of the issue and design programs that work for our economy. We must expand paid family and medical leave, for the good of our families and the strength of our economy.”
As we join together to fight for equality, opportunity, and recognition for women, the NH Women’s Foundation believes that encouraging businesses to engage in family-friendly practices is essential to overcoming gender-based stigmas and outdated traditions. Over the next two years we will direct research, education, philanthropy, and advocacy resources to increase the number of family-friendly workplaces, and to ensure that women of all generations have an equal voice, equal rights, and equal opportunities at work.One of the ways we aspire to lead a statewide conversation on this issue is through our events and outreach. This fall we hosted the two-day All In NH Tour with Josh Levs, and we will feature MomsRising CEO, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, at our Changing Workplaces luncheon in November.
The NH Women’s Foundation shared our initial research on paid sick days and paid family leave in our Spring and Summer issues of Gender Matters. Recently, we created a survey which was disseminated with the help of a dozen partners to learn how people define family friendly, how important people think it is, and people’s experiences with family-friendly workplaces here
in New Hampshire. We look forward to analyzing the results and sharing our findings with the public. The NH Women’s Foundation will conduct multiple Listening Sessions across the state to better understand the nuances of this issue and how the views of large businesses, small businesses and employees differ. We will follow up with the results of these sessions. Please let us know if you are interested in participating! In the coming months, our supporters can expect more roundtables co-hosted by family-friendly businesses to continue the conversation with other businesses that may be interested in adopting these
NH Women’s Foundation believes this issue is of great importance across party lines, to both women and men, and throughout our economy. Family-friendly practices benefit employees and their families, employers and their bottom line, and contribute to a stronger community. We believe it is important to the Granite State to further the discussion, and we hope you are ready
to join the conversation.
The NH Women’s Foundation has had a very successful year, presenting educational events and issue roundtables, and focusing on our policy priority – family-friendly workplaces. We are a small organization of only two and a half staff members, but with the help of an active board we’ve made impressive strides through collaboration. Because of our partnerships with other organizations, we are able to leverage our resources and increase our reach and our effectiveness.
“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” —H.E. Luccock
A great example of this collaboration is our decade-long partnership with the NH Charitable Foundation and the Granite United Way as co-presenters of the annual Women Building Community luncheon, and we look forward to seeing you there on November 19. Earlier this year we hosted a roundtable with Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards and other New Hampshire funders to discuss family planning and how it intersects with the mission work of the attending organizations. The NH Women’s Foundation also hosted Senator Shaheen and area businesses for a conversation about legislation she co-sponsored with Senator Ayotte protecting pregnant workers and offering them reasonable accommodation. We organized the successful All In NH Tour with journalist, author and paid leave activist Josh Levs, who participated in a dialogue with the Entrepreneurs Foundations of NH. We also coordinated events with the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, the NH Institute of Politics, and We the People to share Levs’ research and ideas for implementing more family-friendly workplace policies.
Our collaboration with the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy, which includes a mix of business, labor, and nonprofits dedicated to workplace equality, will be ongoing. Our conversation about gender equality is cultural as well. We partnered with The Music Hall of Portsmouth for a presentation by Jill Lepore, author of The Secret Life of Wonder Woman, and a showing of She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry. We supported the NH Women’s Heritage Trail’s announcement of the 27 notable Granite State women who will be honored with site markers. We are profoundly grateful for all of our partners and the symphony we create together. Our reach and impact has been considerable thanks to our association with so many organizations who show deep commitment to New Hampshire women and families.
*Note from NHWF: Ellen O’Connell attended our Josh Levs All In NH Tour event in Exeter, NH, where she heard him talk about Family Friendly Workplace Practices and the impact that not having access to these accommodations has on families. Ellen is a professional writer and is a millennial who cares deeply about gender equality.
As a millennial, I have watched female friends from childhood, college, and post-grad years fight for gender equality by achieving educational and career goals that would make our Baby Boomer mothers and post-WW II grandmothers cheer. Women are now more likely to attend college and go on to graduate school than men, and according to 2010 and 2011 data from Pew Research Center, millennial women are as likely as men to rank success in their career as a very important, or even the most important, part of their lives. I’ve watched my female friends realize the dreams that were planted in earlier generations’ revolutions. However, when it comes time to have a baby, something interesting happens, something all my friends swore would never happen to them. These career women revert back to traditional gender roles by quitting their jobs and staying home to raise their children. A study published this year by the American Sociological Review supports my observation by concluding that heterosexual couples ages 18-32 prefer a relationship based on gender equity before having children; however because of inequality in workplace policies over parental leave, the couple defaults to a more traditional child-rearing model.
During September’s All In NH Tour, the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation got to hear more about workplace policies and stigmas surrounding parental leave from former CNN and NPR journalist Josh Levs, author of All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses—And How We Can Fix it Together. Levs used his considerable platform to champion the issue of gender equality in the workplace by speaking at the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, giving a lecture at the We the People Author Series in Exeter, and by participating in a roundtable with a group of business leaders. He also spoke to Laura Knoy on NHPR’s The Exchange about his book and experience as a father, trying to get paid leave after his third child was born. He found that at his company, the policies were so discriminatory that he filed a lawsuit. “Everybody could get ten paid weeks except a man who had impregnated his wife,” he said, citing adoptive fathers, fathers who had children via surrogates, and same sex fathers among those who were able to take time for their families.
In New Hampshire, it’s easy to forget that we have an exceptional level of access to politicians in the year leading up to a presidential election, which is why I sat up and paid attention when Levs said that this was a non-partisan issue. Paid family leave, according to Levs, is about gender equality, typically a cause championed by the left. However, with this particular facet of equality, by asking companies to reconsider the policies and stigmas associated with paid family leave, both businesses and families benefit. According to Levs, this is an issue for “everyone who really wants equality.”
While Northern Europe’s public funds and South America’s business-funded leave would not work in the United States, in Levs’s opinion, there are three states that already offer operational paid leave programs that the rest of the country can look to for a model: California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. They take twenty cents out of every $100 a worker makes; it works much like an unemployment fund. Levs also offers an alternative that functions like a 401k, in which workers can put away a little money each year that they can access when they need it for paid family leave.
For the political right, this issue should be important for the same reasons it’s important to the left, though. Paid family leave is as good for the economy as it is for the family.
Happy workers create happy businesses, and workers benefit tremendously. While the benefits to the business are unclear, there is no evidence that they are harmed by offering family leave. In California, women are 6% more likely to work a year after giving birth when they take maternity leave, according to a study published in the National Bureau of Economic Research. That same study found that two years after giving birth, women worked 15-20 % more hours if they took maternity leave. A study at Rutgers University found women in New Jersey were 40% less likely to receive public aid or food stamps after taking their time off.
And in Lev’s opinion, “what’s best for children is always what’s best for society.” In fact, two Columbia University Social Work researchers found that fathers and their children have better relationships after family leave, since the father is more involved in their infants’ care in the first nine months of the bay’s life.
It’s worth noting that even when companies have signficant policies for paternity leave—Levs cited Netflix and Facebook as leaders in this arena—there are “stigmas against men acknowledging they are caregivers.” Levs calls this “a form of bullying,” as bosses with more traditional ideas of caregiving as a female-dominated task are often the ones gender-policing corporate culture. This, according to Levs, is a cycle, as they promote the men who don’t take their designated time off, often because they see them as more macho. “If you’re a dad,” says Levs, “then being a dad is the manliest thing you will ever do.”
In his interview on The Exchange, Levs stated that one way to reverse the stigma against new fathers taking family leave is for bosses to take the time off the company officially offers, thereby modeling the benefits for their employees. Another way of turning that stigma around would be through the Northern European system of designating a block of time only for men to take time off, Levs said.
This issue surrounds the most important relationships in our lives—those with our families—and mandates that we build societies around them. Changing on-paper policies will not be sufficient while stigmas cloud the right to paid family leave. But on a personal level, Levs suggested that women avoid what he calls “gatekeeping,” or taking all the caregiving on themselves while not allowing the father to assume equal responsibility, is a way to move towards gender equality in the home. This, along with grander societal changes, will go a long way towards helping those friends I mentioned not feel as though they are presented with a false binary: family or work. When we can put aside political squabbling to see that gender equality benefits businesses, families, and societies, we will truly be All In.
By: Evan Karatzas, Founder of Proximity Lab
*Note from NHWF: Thank you to Evan Karatzas for his help in organizing and sponsoring our Entrepreneurs Foundation of NH Business (EFNH) roundtable with Josh Levs, for our #AllInNH tour. The connections made at this event allowed for critical engagement from a number of notable New Hampshire Businesses and nonprofits around family friendly workplaces and we couldn’t be more excited.
EFNH’s mission is to bring together entrepreneurs, company management, employees, and investors in philanthropy as a way to support New Hampshire’s quality of life and the health of our communities for the long term.
The New Hampshire Women’s Foundation is focused on promoting family-friendly workplaces. Mary Jo Brown and I organized this roundtable as a collaboration between EFNH and NHWF to help jump start the discussion with business leaders who are involved with shaping and influencing policies in their organizations. It was very well attended by execs and HR leaders from some leading NH businesses including Dyn, Bottomline, W.S. Badger, Scribe and others. Some incredibly bright people and a very thoughtful conversation about how businesses can honor employees as whole people and find creative ways to encourage a better work/life balance.
Josh was very engaging and shared his story and described his campaign to champion a national paid family leave policy that gives employees (men and women) the ability to take paid time off to care for family members who may be ill, support their family during and after child birth or to take time off for their own health and well-being. He’s a pragmatist and an entrepreneur himself who understands that most businesses can’t afford to offer employees extended periods of paid time off – his proposal centers around the use of the payroll tax to fund paid family leave without adding further financial burdens to businesses or employees. The proposal has strong bipartisan support, but the issue needs more visibility and public dialogue. Those who want more details about this topic and his proposal can visit http://joshlevs.com.
I left the session feeling inspired about how tuned in this group of NH business leaders are about the importance of treating employees with compassion and their commitment to fight pervasive gender stereotypes that limit the quality of life we all deserve. These EFNH-affiliated business exemplify leadership – they are incredible role models committed to helping other NH businesses improve the way they support their teams.
If anyone has questions or would like to discuss this further, don’t hesitate to reach out.