RECAP: 2018 Spring Policy Forum

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Originally posted on March 15, 2018

Stop with the awards and give us pay equity

-Councilwoman At-Large Helen Gym

Jenné Johns had just begun dream job as Director of Health Disparities at AmeriHealth Caritas when she learned she was expecting her first child. Jenné gave birth prematurely and spent the next three months balancing her return to work with frequent visits to the neonatal intensive care unit. This was made possible due to the paid leave and pumping accommodations provided by her employer. Unfortunately, the support Jenné received during this difficult time is not the standard for working mothers in Pennsylvania.

Maternity Care Coalition (MCC) brought community members together to figure out why stories like Jenné’s are so common at MCC’s Spring Policy Forum: “Shaping policies for working mothers and their families.” The event was kicked-off by Philadelphia Councilwoman At-Large Helen Gym who gave a riveting keynote and later joined the panel moderated by Amal Bass, Staff Attorney at the Women’s Law Project. The full panel included Michelle McGrain, Federal Affairs Manager, National Partnership for Women & Families; Karen Showalter, Senior Campaign Director, Healthy Kids Campaign Pennsylvania State Moms Force and Jovida Hill, Executive Director, Philadelphia Commission for Women.

The question was raised: How is it that in a state where nearly two-thirds of mothers are primary or co-breadwinners in their families, most workplaces still lack necessary family-sustaining policies and practices?

Councilwoman Gym pointed out, “We measure this city by the health, wealth and opportunities that we give to women and families.” For the state of Pennsylvania, this means establishing policies that ensure employees receive fair and predictable schedules, paid parental leave, adequate breastfeeding accommodations, and equal pay across demographics.

The benefit of and support for such policies extend beyond working mothers to all parents, families and employers. Amal explained, “We know how people feel about these issues. We know what people want and what people need. And yet, our laws are not reflecting that.”

Shifting policy in favor of supporting working mothers and families requires ongoing advocacy. Panelists urged working parents to share their stories and those in positions of power to listen to them.  As Jovida Hill, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Commission for Women reminded us, “WE are our sisters keepers.”

We are looking forward to our next forum which will be in Fall 2018. This newly formatted forum will focus on policy, research and practice including a panel discussion on pregnant and parenting women and the criminal justice system. Please look for additional information later this year!

Watch the full forum on our Facebook page by following the link here.

To view pictures from this event, please head to our Flickr account by following the link here.