WASHINGTON D.C. — Tonight, President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress on the State of the Union. In his speech, President Obama called for new steps to strengthen working families across America asking Congress to pass legislation that would allow millions of working Americans to earn up to seven days of paid sick time per year, proposing more than $2 billion in new funds to encourage states to develop paid family and medical leave programs, and modernizing the Federal workplace by directing agencies to advance up to six weeks of paid leave for parents with a new child.
The Association for Women in Science (AWIS) believes family-friendly workplace policies are essential to help retain women scientists, engineers, and technologists in the interest of strengthening America’s diverse, competitive workforce and advancing our country’s innovation enterprise. Creating work environments where employees can integrate the demands of career and family is good policy for both employers and employees. Paid family leave for mothers and fathers, a flexible workplace, and safe and affordable childcare are essential to this nation’s ability to attract and retain the “best and the brightest.”
The United States is currently one of only three countries, including Lesotho and Swaziland, that that does not offer some form of paid leave for workers. Currently, only 40% of the US workforce is covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which permits up to 12 weeks unpaid time off for medical and family issues. In fact, a mere 12% of US employees have access to paid leave through their employers.
Work-life integration issues are having demonstrable impacts particularly on the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce. In the largest global survey ever undertaken about work-life integration issues among scientists and researchers worldwide, AWIS found serious issues, including paid parental and sick leave, that challenge employers’ capacity to retain scientific talent, to sustain innovation within the science workplace, and to keep both women and men engaged in research endeavors. Nearly 40% of women respondents said they had delayed having children because of their careers, while 27% of males indicated the same situation. Most respondents noted that they could not afford to start a family on their current income as lack of paid time off and safe and affordable childcare were beyond their reach.
AWIS is pleased to see President Obama giving strong support to the case for improved family-friendly policies in all workforces. We join the President in urging not only the US federal government, its contractors, and funding agencies but also all workplaces to pursue the productivity benefits available from creating workplace cultures that accommodates holistically the work/life dimensions of the workforce.
January 20, 2015 Contact: Allison Kimble 703.894.4490