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Leave Policies Only First Step Toward Balancing Career and Family, Advocates Say

HOST INRTO: You know who’s next up to bat? Women. Today was the last day of the Women in the World Summit — an annual conference dedicated to global women’s issues. This year discussions focused heavily on balancing family and career, especially relevant because of new laws around paid leave. But as reporter Nina Agrawal found out, champions of gender equality in the workforce say we still have a long way to go. It was a big week for paid family and parental leave. On Monday, Governor Cuomo signed a law that would allow workers to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave to be with a new child or sick parent. On Tuesday San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed a bill requiring companies to offer women and men six weeks of fully paid parental leave.

While some companies already offer paid leave to their employees, the new laws will now apply to everybody in San Francisco and New York State


Essentially you don’t have to worry about whether you won the boss lottery to get paid family leave. [0:05]

Sarah Fleisch Fink is senior policy counsel for the National Partnership for Women and Families, a nonprofit that advocates for family-friendly labor policies.


This is particularly important we know for low-wage workers, who are the ones least likely to have access to these kinds of benefits through their employer. [0:08]

New York’s new law will be fully implemented in 2021. And Fleisch Fink says the law will be a game changer for employees faced with a difficult trade-off:  whether to go back to work or stay at home with their new child.

Kim Edwards is an administrative nursing supervisor in Hempstead, Long Island. She’s been a single parent her whole life. She says her employer offers paid leave, and for her that was critical.


It was the best feeling in the world to know that I had a choice in the matter cause It gave me the opportunity to take care of my son, do the things that I needed to do, and return to the workforce. [0:10]

The new laws provide six weeks of leave in San Francisco and 12 weeks in New York.


But at the end of that period, that infant is only four months old, three months old,–

That’s PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi speaking at the Women in the World Summit earlier today.


So what are we supposed to do? Just drop the baby at home, home alone and go to work? It doesn’t work. So we have to figure out how can they come back to work quickly but we can ease them in and then allow them to also have the time with the kids. [0:14]

Like offering on-site daycare, something Nooyi has proposed at Pepsi.

On stage with her today was Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former State Department official and Princeton dean. Almost four years ago, Slaughter published an electrifying article in The Atlantic called “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”


I don’t like to think of it in terms of having it all but can women and men have wonderful careers and strong families at the same time? Absolutely. Do we still need to make a revolution in our cultural attitudes, our workplaces and our government policies to get there? Absolutely. [0:19]

Nooyi and Slaughter discussed solutions like building more real estate to accommodate multigenerational families and changing society’s expectations about what’s okay in terms of work-life balance.

Elizabeth Boneparth was in the audience at the conference. She said she never had children.


“It was just too hard to accommodate my career and motherhood.” [0:05]

For future workers hoping to achieve both, she says paid family leave is one thing that will make it easier.

Nina Agrawal, Columbia Radio News


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