American Families Need a More Flexible Workplace

Heather Boushey Speaks at a Progressivism on Tap Event

Heather Boushey, Senior Economist at the Center for American Progress, talked to attendees about women’s increasing role in the U.S. workforce and the need for more flexible work policy for families at Washington, D.C.’s Busboys & Poets as part of the Progressivism on Tap series. Boushey focused on the financial stress families experience today. She discussed how lower-income families, often headed by single women, experience a gap not only in income but in time availability. She pointed out that women of color in particular have so little job flexibility that they can’t keep a job after having a child. In fact, studies have shown that white, male, married men have the most flexibility in the workplace.

She emphasized the need for more responsive and flexible workplace policies for women to make the workplace more equitable, and dispelled the prevailing myth that some women “choose” to stay at home.

“We need to own the fact that, as a nation, we value families,” said Boushey. “The United States is one of the most family-hostile countries in the developed world.”

Families of all income levels are under some sort of financial or time management stress due to the oftentimes inflexibility of the workplace. But it’s difficult to explain why this workplace inflexibility has not become a major political issue. Boushey attributes this to the hesitation of women to approach their bosses about increased flexibility, the decrease in influence of labor force group organizations like unions, and the lack of understanding that government policy can make a difference in family life.

Boushey talked about what the Obama administration has done for work and family issues, such as putting together a Middle Class Task Force. While she acknowledges this is a positive step, she says they need to actually put ideas and policy proposals into action.

Read about more Progressivism on Tap events here.