Today, as married women commonly pursue careers outside the home, concerns about their ability to achieve equal footing with men without sacrificing the needs of their families trouble policymakers and economists alike. In 1993 federal legislation was passed that required most firms to provide unpaid maternity leave for up to twelve weeks. Yet, as Gender and Family Issues in the Workplace reveals, motherhood remains a primary obstacle to women's economic success. This volume offers fascinating and provocative new analyses of women's status in the labor market, as it explores the debate surrounding parental leave: Do policies that mandate extended leave protect jobs and promote child welfare, or do they sidetrack women's careers and make them less desirable employees?
An examination of the disadvantages that women—particularly young mothers—face in today's workplace sets the stage for the debate. Claudia Goldin presents evidence that female college graduates are rarely able to balance motherhood with career track employment, and Jane Waldfogel demonstrates that having children results in substantially lower wages for women. The long hours demanded by managerial and other high powered professions further penalize women who in many cases still bear primary responsibility for their homes and children. Do parental leave policies improve the situation for women? Gender and Family Issues in the Workplace offers a variety of perspectives on this important question. Some propose that mandated leave improves women's wages by allowing them to preserve their job tenure. Other economists express concern that federal leave policies prevent firms and their workers from acting on their own particular needs and constraints, while others argue that because such policies improve the well-being of children they are necessary to society as a whole. Olivia Mitchell finds that although the availability of unpaid parental leave has sharply increased, only a tiny percentage of workers have access to paid leave or child care assistance. Others caution that the current design of family-friendly policies may promote gender inequality by reinforcing the traditional division of labor within families.
Parental leave policy is a complex issue embedded in a tangle of economic and social institutions. Gender and Family Issues in the Workplace offers an innovative and up-to-date investigation into women's chances for success and equality in the modern economy.