Tuesday, March 9, 2010

International Women's Day -- How does America Compare?

by Helen Bushnell, 9to5 member and volunteer

A couple of years ago, I was teaching English at a middle school in a small town in Korea. After I had been there a year and a half, I had to leave because my mother broke her leg. Now, if I had been Korean, I would not have lost my job because I had to go back to the US to take care of my mother for a few weeks. In Korea, family is very important, and taking off to take care of family problems is often encouraged.

In Korea, maternity leave is paid, and people can seek help through the Labor Board if they are not paid correctly, loose out on a promotion or are even fired. There is currently a greater pay gap between men and women in Korea than in the US, but there is no difference in the wages that mothers and women without children make. A Korean woman with young children is on average closer in salary to her male coworkers than an American woman.

Like most developed countries, Korea offers health care to all its citizens. This makes it easier to handle illnesses since people can see a doctor the same day they get sick without having to go to the Emergency Room.

Most European countries offer even more benefits. Many countries offer paid leave to both men and women to take care of a newborn.

Yesterday was International Women's Day -- we should all take this week to reflect on the policies in America that affect women and families and on the disparities between other countries and our own. In America, it should not be the sole responsibility of women to care for their families; men also need to step up and share in this responsibility.

In the following video, one of 9to5's members in Atlanta speaks about her efforts to get her male employees to take care of their family responsibilities.

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