Equality in the Workplace: Why Family Leave Does Not Work – Note by Erin Gielow

From Volume 75, Number 6 (September 2002)

In 2001, more than thirty years after the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, women still have not achieved equality in the workplace. Many statistics emphasize the divide: Last year, 95% of all venture capital went to men; of the top 2,500 corporate executives in America, only sixty-three are women; only three Fortune 500 companies are headed by women; and Congress is 90% male.

While many factors undoubtedly contribute to this disparity, one factor in particular stands out: Women are more likely to take family leave after the birth or adoption of a child, and are far more likely to serve as the primary caregiver for children. The American Bar Association (“ABA”) commented in its 1998 study, Facts About Women and the Law, that, “in reality women bear the greater burden of balancing career and family.” The number of fathers staying home to raise children is relatively small, fluctuating between 2 and 5%.

Powerful societal assumptions about gender roles are still alive and well today. Men are presumed to be the family’s main source of income, and women the primary child care providers. Scholars agree: “Women shoulder the primary responsibility for family,” whereas “[t]raditional culture mandates insist that men act as the primary breadwinner of the family.”



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