This morning I read an article by the Huffington Post that reported on a recent visit to the USA by a UN delegation of 3 female human rights experts. Their purpose? To assess gender equality in the USA. The three women visited Alabama, Texas and Oregon to evaluate a wide range of US policies and attitudes as well as school, health and prison systems. Apparently, the delegates were “appalled by the lack of gender equality in America”. Well, the UN didn’t really need to send a delegation to come to that conclusion. Amongst many areas of inequality, lagging behind world-wide standards, the one area that shocks me the most is paid maternity leave (or lack thereof). The US is one of three countries in the world that does not guarantee women paid maternity leave. Yes my non-American friends, this is quite unbelievable.
I cannot imagine for you, after all the added stresses and financial burdens of infertility to then be forced to make a decision about whether or not you can afford to take the time off work or how long you can take off without your job being threatened. Now, there are some great companies in the US who do pay a reasonable amount of paid maternity leave…but they are also probably the same companies who have great infertility insurance coverage. The financial battle doesn’t end for the family once the baby is born! Oh no….
By the way, I haven’t even got onto the subject of paternity leave either.
Here is a wonderful 15 minute TED talk about how the US needs paid family leave. It brought me to the brink of tears (but that is quite easy to do for me ;-)) and is quite compelling.
I myself am lucky that although I live and work in the US, my employer is international so it takes the ‘average’ of all the different countries’ maternity leave policies and agrees a reasonable amount of full time paid leave. Although I am British, unfortunately I won’t be able to take advantage of our government’s new scheme that allows the parents to decide which parent will take the maternity leave, the mother or the father – it can also be shared if so desired! So Chris will get his 3 days of paternity leave or whatever it is not even worth writing about, but that is all. Guess it’s all down to me then (for a few months at least to begin with)!
But not all hope is lost for my future American parents of newborns, things are moving forward today, there is a push by Obama to create a federal law for a minimum of 6 weeks paid maternity leave. If I ever get a chance to have a say or participate in any kind of advocacy for US maternity pay I will jump at the chance. I hope you will too!