Roger Cohen, The Quest to Belong
Next year’s Thanksgiving grace.
The US should create a service to provide no cost child care:
from the article
The cost and the scarcity of day care has helped create what the sociologist Joya Misra calls “the motherhood penalty.” While women without children are closer to pay equity with men, women with children are lagging behind because they find that working doesn’t always make sense after considering the cost of child care. When women earn less than their partners, they are more likely to drop out of the work force, and if they do so for two years or more, they may not be able to get back in at anything approaching their prior job or earnings. The cost of taking care of one’s children outside the home is now so high that many women cannot be assured of both working and making a decent income after taxes and child care costs.
Professor Misra, who teaches sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has analyzed data from thousands of parents from different social classes. One study of middle-class academic parents was based on hundreds of surveys and focus group interviews and 17 one-on-one interviews. Many talked about the shock of day care costs, which can eat up 30 percent of one income in a two-salary couple, Professor Misra says.In 35 states and D.C., even the cost of center-based day care (let alone a nanny) is higher than the cost of a year of a public college. More anecdotally, day care costs for middle-class New Yorkers can easily equal from $25,000 to $30,000 per child. In New York, child care is the single greatest expense among low-income families in the city, surpassing both food and housing.
We see day care as a private responsibility. Part of the problem is that we sometimes have a problem with the idea of “day care” itself. Professor Gerson and other sociologists saw something I had seen as well among my middle class acquaintances: a discomfort with center-based day care and even the term “day care,” preferring terms like “educational enrichment” and, yes, preschool. Across the world, though, people count on the availability of day care and see it as a collective good: Americans don’t tend to do so as readily. More access to quality early childhood care would help. But those solutions go only part of the way. The most radical solution of all is the most obvious: we need high-quality, universal, subsidized day care. And we should not be ashamed to ask for it.
- Elizabeth Spiers, Beware of broken glass: the media’s double standard for women at the top
Spiers does a good job of defending Marrisa Mayer’s decision to end distributed (‘remote’) work at Yahoo, and especially making the case of a double standard for women at the ‘top’. Much of the discourse swirling around the Yahoo brouhaha is explicitly about Mayer as a female role-model.
However, I’d like to make a few points.
Calling working at home (or out of the office) a ‘luxury’ is intentionally derogatory. For those caring for children or aging parents it is a huge benefit, but not a luxury. More importantly, for some people, if they could not work from home then they would be unable to work, because they simply cannot afford the costs involved with caring for those family members.
Secondly — and this is where feminism enters — those caregivers in America are largely women. It is generally women who have to shoulder the burden of caregiving. And, also note, women continue to be paid less for doing the same work as men, and are much more likely to work in industries and roles that pay less, like health care, teaching, and administration.
Last, US Census numbers show that working at home is prevalent in many industries (see below). For example, 846,000 sales people worked from home in 2010, and 956,000 support staff.
I don’t dispute that Mayer has the right to make this call, and she has real incentives to change the culture at Yahoo. But as I have suggested in a recent GigaOM Research post (see Cultural change is really complex contagion), this is probably not the best way to do that.