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Working Families Summit: President Obama's Priorities

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on June 23, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

I've said it before, the issues facing women in the workplace are not women's issues but family issues -- but, this time I don't need to say it again. Instead, I'll let President Barack Obama say it: "This is not just a women's issue. This is a middle-class issue and an American issue."

Today, the President and First Lady hosted The White House Summit on Working Families to kickstart the "conversation on working families for a 21st century workplace." If you were not able to tune in to the President's remarks -- which were earnest, heartfelt and funny -- read on for a brief recap, and how your law firm can help #FamiliesSucceed.

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Key Issues for Working Families

The President outlined four key issues that are integral to working families today: paid family leave, workplace flexibility, child care and the ever-looming issue of wages, reports CNN.

1. On Paid Maternity Leave
-- According to a UN survey of 185 countries, only three do not offer paid maternity leave: Oman, Papua New Guinea, and ... the United States, the President noted, stating, "Paid family leave, we're the only advanced country on Earth that doesn't have it ... It doesn't make any sense. There are a lot of countries that are a lot poorer than we are that also have it."

2. On Workplace Flexibility -- The President noted that parents are pushed to take a more active role in their children's education, yet struggle to make it to parent-teacher conferences due to work obligations. The President noted that flexible schedules would allow employees to be happier, more productive, and help to achieve more balance in their lives.

3. Child Care -- The President noted, "We don't do a very good job providing high-quality, affordable child care, and there are a lot of countries, a lot of our competitors do it." Providing affordable, good child care would mean more opportunities for women, and in the end would help kids too.

4. Minimum Wage and Equal Pay -- The President noted that women hold more minimum-wage positions, and that families would benefit from increases in the minimum wage. He also discussed the continuing disparity in wages between men and women, citing administrative changes he's implemented.

The President's Call to Action

Noting the "outdated policies," President Obama is issuing a Presidential Memorandum "directing federal agencies to implement existing efforts to expand flexible workplace policies to the maximum possible extent." The memorandum will call for three things: (1) federal agencies to review their workplace flexibility policies; (2) direct federal agencies to implement policies for federal employees to request flexible schedules without fear of retaliation; and (3) directs the Office of Personnel Management to create a new Workplace Flexibility Index, and calls for training employees and management on tools available to them.

In addition, the President is supporting passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, amending the Family and Medical Leave Act to include spouses in same sex marriages, and proposing ways to increase access to affordable child care, among other things.

Today's remarks were a long time coming, and many families across the United States can breathe a collective sigh of relief because now they know they are not alone, and they have a President who is trying to make changes for working families. Come back on Wednesday as we discuss how your law firm can help #FamiliesSucceed.

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