FACT SHEET: The White House Summit On Working Families
Fighting for Working Families; Strengthening Our Economy
Building on actions he already has taken to help create real, lasting economic security for working families, today the President will announce a set of concrete steps that will create more opportunities for hardworking families to get ahead. Together with the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Center for American Progress (CAP), the White House is hosting the Summit on Working Families to set an agenda for a 21st century workplace. This fact sheet lays out these new announcements, along with a series of reports the White House Council of Economic Advisers has released ahead of today’s Summit.
Already this year, the President has acted to move our country forward by raising the minimum wage for federal contractors, expanding retirement opportunities, strengthening overtime protections, and signing an Executive Order that protects workers from being retaliated against by their boss if they discuss their wages. At the Summit, the President will build on this progress by signing a Presidential Memorandum to help families better balance work and spending time at home, and announcing a package of both public and private sector efforts that will take a strong stand to protect pregnant working women, increase investments for research to understand the economic benefits of paid leave, expand apprenticeships for women, target resources to help more women enter higher-paying STEM and other fields, and make child care more affordable for working families.
The President’s approach to the kitchen table issues that working families deal with every day is grounded in his own personal experience as well as his understanding that in order to stay competitive and economically successful, American businesses and our country as a whole need to bring our workplace policies into the 21st century. From growing up as the son of a single mom, to paying off his student loans, to raising two young daughters in a household with two working parents, the President learned the value of hard work and understands many of the struggles that American families face today.
Since the beginning of his Administration, President Obama has focused on how we can create real, lasting security for the middle class by strengthening our nation’s workplaces to better support working families. Yet, while studies show that family-friendly workplace policies can enhance businesses’ profitability, many companies report that they lack the tools and expertise to redesign their workplaces to capture this competitive advantage. Too many workplaces still have policies that belong in a Mad Men episode – not the year 2014. When nearly half of all parents have said “no” to a job because it would be too hard on their families, it’s time to act. The President will continue to work with Congress and make progress on his own because working families can no longer wait for Washington to move forward.
Today’s Summit explores how, as the demographics of our workforce change, our workplaces can change to support working families, boost businesses’ bottom lines, and ensure America’s global economic competitiveness in the coming decades. The Summit will convene businesses, economists, labor leaders, legislators, advocates and the media for a discussion on issues facing the entire spectrum of working families – from low-wage workers to corporate executives, from young parents to baby boomers caring for their aging parents. The important efforts the President will announce today reflect our belief that we all have a role to play in changing our country’s workplace policies and will be built upon coming out of today’s Summit. In addition, today the White House Council of Economic Advisers is releasing a new report: “Work-Life Balance and the Economics of Workplace Flexibility,” which is attached and available here. In addition, in recent days, CEA has also released the following reports:
- “The Economics of Paid and Unpaid Leave,” click here to access the report.
- “Nine Facts about American Families and Work” click here to access the report.
A Year of Action: Building on Progress
EXPANDING WORKPLACE FLEXIBILITY AND EMPOWERING WORKERS
Taking Executive Action to Expand Workplace Flexibility. The President will issue a Presidential Memorandum directing federal agencies to implement existing efforts to expand flexible workplace policies to the maximum possible extent. In support of this goal, this executive action will direct agencies to review their workplace flexibilities and programs and report back any best practices and barriers to their use. In addition, the memorandum will make clear that Federal workers have the “right to request” a flexible work arrangement without fear of retaliation, and will direct agencies to establish procedures for addressing these requests by employees. Finally, it will call for training all employees and their supervisors on the effective use of these tools and will direct the Office of Personnel Management to create a new Workplace Flexibility Index that will be published online and updated annually to measure agencies’ success.
Supporting the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. While the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 took a crucial step toward protecting pregnant workers, too many women still face discrimination in the workplace and a serious and unmet need for reasonable accommodations that would allow them to keep working while they are pregnant. For that reason, President Obama will urge Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would require employers to make reasonable accommodations to workers who have limitations from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions (unless it would impose an undue hardship on the employer). The legislation also would prohibit employers from forcing pregnant employees to take paid or unpaid leave if a reasonable accommodation would allow them to work.
Empowering Pregnant Workers with Better Information About Their Rights. At the President’s direction, DOL will release a new online map that will be a one-stop shop where working families can learn about the rights of pregnant workers in each state. The map will also allow families to see which states are leading the charge in protecting their rights and which are lagging behind. This live map will continue to reflect any future changes in state and federal policy.
Extending Workplace Protections to All Families Equally. Last year, in United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. President Obama called the Court’s decision a victory for same-sex married couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law, and he instructed the Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure the decision, including its implications for federal benefits and programs, was implemented swiftly and smoothly. On Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it has concluded that review. In almost all instances, the government is able to extend benefits to same-sex married couples, regardless of where they live. Also on Friday, DOL announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend the definition of a “spouse” under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) so that eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages will be able to take FMLA leave to care for their spouse or family member, regardless of where they live. This change will ensure that the FMLA is applied to all families equally, giving spouses in same-sex marriages the same ability as all spouses to fully exercise their rights and responsibilities to their family.
INCREASING ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE CHILD CARE
Promoting Access to Child Care for Workers in Job Training Programs. DOL will make funds available for technical skill training grants to provide low-wage individuals opportunities to advance in their careers in in-demand industries, with $25 million of the competition focused on addressing barriers to training faced by those with childcare responsibilities. With the help of additional public or private funding that it will leverage, these dedicated funds will promote greater availability of activities such as co-location of training and child care services, access to unconventional training delivery times or locations, flexibilities related to scheduling and child care exigencies, and improved access to related child care services. These funds will give more working families a path to secure, higher wage jobs by addressing the significant barriers related to finding and acquiring affordable, high quality child care—including emergency care—while attending skills training programs. For example, evidence shows that single parents who receive child care are much more likely to complete job training programs than those who do not have access to child care. The new competition, which will be launched next year, will aim to increase participation and completion rates of those in training by supporting sustainable and innovative approaches that expand workers’ access to child care.
Expanding Access to High-Quality Child Care. The lack of quality, affordable child care and preschool has enormous economic implications for families. Greater availability of high-quality early care and education enables workers to succeed in their jobs while providing children the resources needed to support their healthy development and prepare them for success in school. Today the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will release a new report on the Obama Administration’s investments to expand access to high-quality early care and education, including efforts under the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge program, Head Start and Early Head Start, and the Child Care and Development Fund. The report will highlight state progress on establishing standards and improving program quality as well as supporting family-friendly policies that help working parents find high-quality and sustainable child care for their children.
Supporting High-Quality Early Education for All Children. The President has proposed a series of new investments that will establish a continuum of high-quality early learning for a child—beginning at birth and continuing to age 5—including expanding evidence-based, voluntary home visits for parents and children, growing the supply of high-quality infant and toddler care through our new Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, and providing all four-year-old children with access to high-quality preschool. These investments will help close America’s school readiness gap and ensure that children have the chance to enter kindergarten ready for success. In May, HHS announced a $500 million competitive grant opportunity to support the expansion of Early Head Start and the creation of Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships. In addition, ED will launch a $250 million Race to the Top competition this year to partner with states and communities to expand access to high-quality, universal preschool programs. HHS will provide new grants in 2014 to serve additional at-risk families during pregnancy and children’s early years through the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.
MAKING PROGRESS TOWARD SOLUTIONS FOR PAID LEAVE
Supporting the Creation of State Paid Leave Programs. DOL is targeting funds for Paid Leave Analysis Grants to fund up to five states to conduct research and feasibility studies that could support the development or implementation of state paid leave programs. A preliminary announcement about these grants will be sent this week to all state Governors. The selection process will give priority to states that can demonstrate commitment to building a knowledge base needed to implement paid leave programs, and can present clearly articulated strategies for leveraging this research to do so.
Providing Additional Research to Inform and Develop Paid Leave Solutions. DOL is funding two new independent research studies related to employee leave that will examine how paid leave programs impact employers and workers. One study is already underway and focuses on state paid parental leave laws in California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. The first paper from this study, released today, analyzes the positive impact of the California law ten years after implementation. The second study, which begins next month, will assess the current use of leave by workers and the likely effects of alternative worker leave policies.
CONTINUING TO CLOSE THE PAY GAP BY INCREASING ACCESS TO NON-TRADITIONAL OCCUPATIONS
Closing the Gender Pay Gap and Expanding Women’s Access to STEM and Other Non-Traditional Occupations. Ensuring that women earn equal pay is essential to improving the economic security of American families and the growth of our middle class and our economy. Women comprise nearly half of the American workforce – yet, on average, they still earn less than similarly qualified men for doing the same job. And the pay gap for women of color is even greater. A significant factor contributing to this persistent gap is the concentration of women in comparatively lower paying and non-supervisory professions. Many high-paying jobs are in fields that require scientific knowledge or technical skills, where women and minorities often have been underrepresented or excluded. For example, despite accounting for half of the college-educated workforce, in 2010, women constituted 37 percent of employed individuals with a highest degree in a science and engineering field and 28 percent of employed individuals in science and engineering occupations. The promise of equal pay for equal work must also be a promise of equal access to better paying, STEM and other non-traditional occupations and the Administration is doing its part to make sure that promise is kept by:
- Federal Science Agencies Leading Efforts to Increase Women in STEM Research Careers. The Department of Energy (DOE) will announce new partnerships with 100kin10 and US2020 to expand their Women @ Energy series profiling women in Federal STEM careers to inspire the next generation of energy scientists and engineers. The National Science Foundation will implement nearly a year ahead of schedule cost allowance policies for childcare at professional conferences that lesson the challenges for working families. With these and other family friendly policies, Federal science research agencies are stepping up to reduce the false choice faced by women and men entering research careers of starting a family or continuing on a trajectory to productive faculty research positions. And NIH today will release a comprehensive summary of research on barriers and opportunities to attract and retain women in biomedical science careers and will use this evidence base to guide Administration policies to broaden participation and success in STEM fields.
- Mobilizing Colleges to Improve College Access and Success for Underserved Students. College and Universities have launched new programs, scholarships, and outreach, in response to the President and First Lady’s call at the White House College Opportunity event in January 2014, to expand STEM college completion for more underserved students, including broadening achievement to women and minorities in STEM fields in which they are under-represented. In particular, significant steps have been taken by the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, Harvey Mudd College, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wellesley College, and Stony Brook University.
- Expanding Access to Higher-Paying Jobs in Construction Fields for Women. Women hold only 2.6 percent of constructions jobs – and that number is virtually unchanged over the past 35 years. When the employment rates of women of color in construction are examined, the statistics are even bleaker. The Administration is working to reverse this imbalance. Through its Mega-Construction Projects (MCP) Initiative, DOL convenes parties involved in large-scale, high-profile construction projects around the country – including contractors, unions, community leaders, and advocates – to ensure coordination and compliance with equal employment obligations. Designed to address the historical underrepresentation of minorities and women in skilled construction trades, the MCP Initiative enables contractors to identify qualified women and minority workers more easily.
- Launching a New Public-Private Partnership to Recruit and Train Women for STEM Fields and Apprenticeships. Jobs for the Future and Wider Opportunities for Women are committing to adapt and expand their Pink to Green Tool-Kit from its current focus on recruiting and retaining women in training programs for green sector jobs to a broader focus on training in STEM careers that hold the promise of new and high-potential career paths for women. In particular, JFF and WOW will work with the Administration to promote the toolkit to potential applicants for the $100M American Apprenticeship Grants to assist in increasing the number of women and other underrepresented groups in apprenticeships.
- Releasing a Resource Guide on Women and Minorities in Apprenticeships. DOL is releasing a resource guide on women and minorities in apprenticeships, including tools to help employers and community-based organizations increase the representation of women and minorities in apprenticeships, as well as improve performance and completion rates.
- Creating a Clearinghouse for Women Accessing Non-Traditional Occupations. DOL is developing a digital clearinghouse to share the latest and best information on access to non-traditional occupations, including promising industry practices, job and training opportunities, and relevant research and data for use by trade associations, training organizations, employers, and women interested in non-traditional occupations and apprenticeship opportunities.
- Investments in Research to Understand Barriers Preventing Women’s Full Access to Non-Traditional Occupations. ED is commissioning a study that will examine whether girls and young women in high school have access to high-quality programs that prepare them for careers that are non-traditional for women. Similarly, DOL has commissioned studies that evaluate existing adult and dislocated worker programs to identify the barriers that women face in accessing non-traditional occupations. DOL soon will release summary data on women’s participation in transportation, technology and manufacturing fields.
- Changing the Odds for Marginalized Girls. Later this year, ED and Georgetown University will convene thought leaders, policy makers, practitioners, researchers, advocates and marginalized girls and young women to focus on ending barriers and other challenges that girls and young women face in accessing and completing career and technical education and other rigorous college and career preparation programs. This convening will produce and help inform policy and programmatic proposals to help disrupt patterns of gender-based occupational segregation by increasing young women’s and girls’ participation in programs that prepare them for high-skill, high-wage jobs, including non-traditional occupations. The aim is to develop a going-forward strategy to prepare women and girls for in-demand careers within high-growth industry sectors.
- Enforcing Federal Employment Nondiscrimination Laws to Ensure Men and Women Have Equal Access to Job Opportunities. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), DOJ, and DOL remain committed to enforcement of federal laws requiring equal employment opportunity without regard to gender. Through outreach and technical assistance to foster voluntary compliance, and through enforcement and litigation where necessary, EEOC, DOJ and DOL are working to prevent and remedy discriminatory practices that “steer” women and men into specific jobs based on gender or impose barriers to hiring and advancement that exclude qualified women, and also to prevent and remedy sexual harassment and other practices that can discourage men and women from working in traditionally gender-segregated occupations.
- Building an Information Portal for Federal Job-Seekers and Human Resource Professionals. OPM’s Recruitment Policy and Outreach Office soon will release a web-based “studio” for Federal human resources professionals and for job seekers, including women and girls. These resources are designed to help job seekers, including women, enhance their job search in all occupational areas, including STEM and other hard-to-fill occupations, and those in which they are traditionally underrepresented.
The Administration is joined in these efforts by private sector and non-profit partners:
- Attracting New Talent to Technology Careers. The National Center for Women & Information Technology will announce a new commitment to add thousands of new technical women to the U.S. talent pool by 2016 through their Pacesetters program, and is expanding access to the “Transforming Technical Job Ads” initiative, an effort to produce job ads with more inclusive language to encourage more female applicants, to over 150 corporate and small business and more than 300 college and university partners in the coming months.
- Reaching Parents with New Tools to Inspire their Daughters to Become Engineers. The Society of Women Engineers, will release new online training tools for parents, educators, and mentors to inspire and encourage more young girls to pursue engineering careers. With funding from the S. D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, the online resource gives parents information and tools to understand how engineering can improve girls’ academic achievement and career prospects, and gives teachers and mentors activities to use with students to engage and build their interests in STEM fields. This new training builds on a series of publicly available tools to encourage women and girls to pursue and succeed in engineering careers.
EXPANDING TAX CREDITS THAT SUPPORT WORKING FAMILIES
Tax Credits for Working Families. Recognizing the importance of tax relief for working families, the President enacted, and Congress extended with bipartisan support through 2017, significant improvements to tax credits for working families. These include expansions to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit, which strengthen work incentives and help parents afford the costs of raising a family, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which helps working and middle-class families pay for college. Together, these improvements provide about $25 billion in tax relief to 26 million families every year. The President’s Budget proposes to make these improvements permanent, while doing even more to promote work and support families through improving tax credits that help families with young children afford the rising costs of child care, and the EITC for workers without children, including non-custodial parents.
NEW PRIVATE SECTOR EFFORTS TO BRING SOLUTIONS TO MORE WORKPLACES
Convening Businesses and Stakeholders to Identify and Share Innovative Solutions. A group of companies and businesses, including Bright Horizons Family Solutions, Care.com, Ernst & Young, Johnson and Johnson, and KPMG are coming together to launch a working group that that will bring together companies across diverse industries to explore ways they can address the needs of working families in today’s changing economy. In consultation with the Administration, the group will identify ways that employers can measure their own progress and help ensure they have effective practices in place to respond to workers’ work-life needs, retain the best talent, and are well-positioned for success in the 21st century global economy.
Working with Unions and Labor Management Partnerships to Expand Quality Training Programs to Provide Pathways to Middle-Class Jobs. In partnership with ED, over forty unions and labor management organizations have pledged to expand low-skilled workers’ access to their training programs and share best practices on effective workforce and career pathway programs. These organizations are well-positioned to expand opportunities for women to improve their foundation skills to access higher-wage occupations in the fields of healthcare, construction, transportation, and manufacturing. This collaboration represents partnerships with almost 8,000 employers and will provide unprecedented access to educational and training opportunities as well as supportive services necessary for women and working families to be successful.