On International Women’s Day, U.S. Labor Policies Lag Behind Other Nations

Liz Ben-Ishai, CLASP

On International Women’s Day (IWD), the media, public figures, and global organizations join together to celebrate women’s roles as mothers, caregivers, and workers. But while the U.S. will participate in these celebrations, we frequently fail to support these roles financially, socially, and culturally. This has major consequences for women, families, and the economy. Today, as global leaders pledge to work toward gender parity and step up progress toward gender equality, our leaders at home should quickly close the gaps in labor protections and the social safety net. Women workers shouldn’t be left in a lurch when they must care for themselves or others.

In his message for International Women’s Day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon writes, “As a boy growing up in post-war Korea, I remember asking about a tradition I observed: women going into labour would leave their shoes at the threshold and then look back in fear. ‘They are wondering if they will ever step into those shoes again,’ my mother explained.” Noting that he is still haunted by the memory, Ban explains: “In poor parts of the world today, women still risk death in the process of giving life.”

In fact, maternal mortality in the U.S.—which is not a “poor part of the world”— remains shockingly high; roughly 700–800 women die during pregnancy or birth each year. That’s more than twice the rate of Canada. Reflecting widespread racial inequities in the U.S., data show that women of color are more likely than other women to die during pregnancy and birth. Read More

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