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Madland: Rep. Mark Pocan takes women's economic challenges seriously

It's so encouraging that Pocan and the Dems are talking about the whole package: pay, work and family balance, and childcare.
Credit:Office of U.S. Representative Mark Pocan
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I have many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

For one, I work at home. Because writing, editing and singing aren't making me rich, balancing work and family has been challenging. But at least I don't have to worry about losing my job when my kids got sick.

It's one of many perils of being a working mom that came to the fore at a town hall meeting Tuesday afternoon at the Central Library. Hosted by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison), the session explored a new economic agenda from House Democrats named "When Women Succeed, America Succeeds: An Economic Agenda for Women and Families."

Madison Ald. Lisa Subeck, executive director of United Wisconsin and candidate for a Wisconsin Assembly seat, spoke at the town hall about her experiences working on homelessness issues. Once, a client told her why she was homeless in two words: chicken pox.

This woman lost two weeks of work when her two children contracted chicken pox. She did not have paid sick leave, and so lost her job, couldn't pay rent, and ended up on the street. "When you live paycheck to paycheck, you can't recover from chicken pox," she told Subeck.

Fatou Ceesay, owner of Cairasu Home Care, shared how she agonized about what to do with her two young children when her mother was denied a visa into the U.S. to help with child care. Ceesay had separated from her husband and couldn't make ends meet and still take care of her children. She ended up having to send them to The Gambia while she "stabilized" her life and earned her degree.

Women are making these kinds of choices every day.

We still earn, on average, 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Women account for two-thirds of minimum wage workers. Nearly half of full-time employees do not have access to family and medical leave protections. And women's retirement incomes are 75% lower than men's in the workforce because of the time we take to care for children or elderly relatives.

It's a raw deal.

And that's why it's so encouraging that Pocan and his Dem colleagues in the House are talking about the whole package: pay, work and family balance, and childcare.

Fixing one aspect, like raising the minimum wage, would help, but to really address the root causes of women's failure to thrive, policymakers need to address all three legs.

So that's another thing I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving: having a representative who listens.

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