When we look back over the 20th century and try to understand what has happened to workers and their families, the movement of women out of the home and into paid employment stands out as one of the most important transformations. This change in how women spend their days affects everything.
Yet, in the United States, our policy landscape remains stuck in an idealized past where the typical family was a married-for-life couple with one breadwinner and full-time homemaker. Our policies more often than not implicitly assume that families have someone at home that can provide care—from school hours that are inconsistent with workday patterns to hospitals that send home recovering patients who need assistance, to workplace standards that put no limits on mandatory overtime, require predictable schedules, or even requires employers to simply talk with their employees about the kinds of workplace flexibility they need.
Quite simply, women employed outside the home changes everything. We need to ensure that everyone—men and women, parents and non-parents alike—is able to meet the challenges of the workplace, while being able to provide care for their family. We need new ground rules that recognize this transformation.