Women in The Workplace  

Lilly Ledbetter will be speaking tonight in Cleveland for Hard Hatted Women. I highly recommend sending a little green their way for all the amazing work they do with pre-apprenticeship programs for women in Cleveland. And to tell you the kinds of stuff women in the workplace face, perhaps we can shine a light on the choices we have to make when planning for kids or even thinking about adopting. It's kind of a reality check:

of half a million impoverished children in one year's time.

Nikki Maxwell is a 39-year-old mother of three living in North Hills, California. As an employee of California State University, she was well-supported when she chose to have children. A human resources staff member took the time to explain the family and health policies. As a union member, she received six weeks paid leave. Her co-workers were responsive to the flexible hours she needed at the office.

By the time her third child was born, though, Maxwell worked in a new department.

"[In the new department], nobody had children and you were expected to work weekends and evenings," Maxwell said. "I just couldn't do that anymore. It was time to leave."

She left CSU to work as a consultant from home. But her timing, she said, couldn't have been worse.

"The economy has tanked and we've gone from being fairly stable and secure as parents to feeling stressed and unsure," she said. "I like my flexible lifestyle, but I don't like not have health insurance for my kids."

She added that while she and her husband planned their first child, the other two were unexpected. "I'm not sure I ever would have had more children on purpose," Maxwell said. "It's a big, responsible and scary job to be a parent these days.

"I would adopt (another child) if I felt I could afford it. I can't afford more children at this point."

Amy Minton, a writer in San Antonio, shares this frustration.

"Frankly, I'd love to adopt, but the financial and medical bills for that are way out of our league. Why isn't it more affordable to adopt so that middle-class people can do it? That frustrates me," she said.

Becoming a parent in and of itself wasn't without economic strain for Minton.

"When I had my baby in 2000, I worked for myself and had a crappy individual policy. I paid cash to midwives for the birth, and we negotiated with the hospital on a payment plan. I went back to work the day after I gave birth," she said.

"Now, in 2008, with an employer that offers family leave and a crappy health care plan I can't afford--so I still have the same individual insurance plan--I wouldn't think of having a baby," Minton said. "I've seen too many new moms here at work get caught in the system they thought would take care of them. Then they get passed over for promotions because their focus is on family."

My daughter is now 15. In 1993, SChip (Ohio's Healthy Babies) made it possible for me to have her. Both my husband and I were working and I had health insurance, but it wasn't enough to cover the medical bills. I went back to work as a waitress 10 weeks after she was born and had to deal with babysitters from hell until I could afford day care. There were times when I pulled the cushions to search for pennies so I could put something, anything in the gas tank.

Women deserve equal pay. We deserve to be able to feed our families and where possible, adopt kids whose parents aren't able to care for them. No one should have to make a choice between family and career and NO EMPLOYER should be able to pass a woman with a family over for a promotion just because she has a family. On that last one, I should know. As a single mom, it happened to me and there wasn't a damn thing to do about it. They didn't select me because I was a single mother and the job required travel. They hired another woman instead of me. Single moms are not a protected class. Mom's in general aren't, either. It's as if they're still telling women that we need to learn to sit down and shut up, you know, learn to take it like a man. Only thing is, men still get all the breaks and having to even consider a Lilly Ledbetter keeps proving that point.

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