Today’s families are increasingly reliant upon working mothers as breadwinners or co-breadwinners. (see Figure 1) The past four decades have brought about dramatic changes in how women—and men—navigate their workplace responsibilities, caregiving needs, and personal lives. Four in five U.S. families with children are headed by either two working parents or a single working parent, and thus most families have to navigate issues such as costly or inadequate child care, a lack of paid family leave, and the persistent wage gap, just to name a few.
While social and economic changes created this new reality, political decisions have shaped the struggles so many families now face. All working women deserve a fair day’s pay, but they also need to have time to actually live their lives and do what is important to them without fear of losing their jobs or ruining their careers. Our nation’s lawmakers, however, have failed to craft public policies that effectively address today’s challenges and make this possible. Working women are especially disadvantaged by the lack of policy solutions, in part because they continue to take on a larger share of the family caretaking responsibilities—for both the young and elderly members of their families—and because the hurdles they face in the workplace and at home, such as those outlined below, only compound over time, setting them back economically in ever-worsening ways over the course of their lifetimes.
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