What Work-Family Issues are Facing Women? An Online Author Talk with Economist Heather Boushey
As women increasingly serve as breadwinners, what does a “family wage” mean? And now that women’s incomes are key to families’ survival, where are the policies that address work-family conflicts?
Hailed by Vogue as “the feminist econ book you never knew you needed,” Finding Time: The Economics of Work-Life Conflict — former AAUW American Fellow Heather Boushey’s (@HBoushey) new book — answers these questions and more. Join our ¡Adelante! Book of the Month Club discussion as we talk with Boushey about contemporary issues in work-life balance and women’s economic security.
Boushey serves as executive director of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Hosted by the Younger Women’s Task Force, this special discussion will tackle everything from earned sick leave to affordable child care.
Paying the Second Shift
American workers navigating today’s 24/7 economy need a contract renegotiation, argues Heather Boushey in Finding Time: The Economics of Work-Life Conflict. The economist takes readers through a sweeping history of supply, demand, and economic policies affecting the care economy, from Henry VIII-era Poor Laws to the New Deal to today.
Historically, laws proposed to institutionalize paid leave, sick days, and affordable, high-quality child care have failed thanks to the conflation of these programs with “charity.” But what if we thought of these benefits as investments, not handouts? Employees with affordable care and flexible schedules are not just happier; they’re more productive, and they tend to stay at their jobs longer. Yet the ideas that make working outside the home more manageable for women also generated anxiety that the traditional, patriarchal family model would be thrown into chaos.
Our economy is now far from traditional in the Leave it to Beaver sense. Many households are led by single women breadwinners, or single men, or same-sex partners. But policies still assume there’s a parent (wife) available to take care of family needs, unpaid.
In a review that’s structured like a series of digestible lectures, Boushey investigates how to improve work-life balance for today’s workers through policy. She argues for paid leave and sick days, flexible schedules, and an end to caregiver bias — which has led to undervaluing and underpaying jobs that women historically performed without pay. Boushey also points out that work-life policies must take intersectionality into account: Even Frances Perkins, the “woman behind the New Deal” and its eight-hour workday, did not manage to extend the same worker protections to African Americans.
Boushey uses her economist’s lens to argue that workers with the means and time to take care of their families have more resources to pour into the economy, have healthier kids, and provide businesses with better-quality employees.
If that’s not a bottom line, I don’t know what is.
This review originally appeared in the summer 2016 issue of AAUW’s membership magazine, AAUW Outlook.
About ¡Adelante! Book of the Month Club
Female authors are much less likely than male authors to have their books reviewed in major publications like the New York Times and Harper’s Magazine. That’s why we created the ¡Adelante! Book of the Month Club: to spotlight engrossing stories and writing by women from all backgrounds. We also connect our members to some of the authors we feature through web discussions. Stay in the know about upcoming ¡Adelante! events, or create your own book club.
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