empowering women, girls and their families to achieve equal opportunities in their personal and professional lives


Posts Tagged: Work


The United States Department of Labor describes the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as one implemented to provide unpaid leave of up to 12 weeks while protecting job status and pay. In addition to absence from work, the FMLA dictates that employers cannot discontinue group health insurance benefits just because someone is on family leave. The Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF) has served as a primary source for the establishment of equity in the workplace in the state of Connecticut. Despite the fact that the FMLA was instituted in 1993 and is enforced as a federal workplace law in the United States, women sometimes face issues regarding their rights to family leave and their reasons for taking it:

  • Pregnancy/Maternity Leave. Pregnancy or maternity leave is provided for family members who have given birth to or adopted a child, as well as taken in a child for foster care. While the FMLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, six to eight weeks is often considered appropriate in this situation. Dependent upon a person’s condition and individual circumstances, more than six to eight weeks can be provided. Should there be issues with maternity leave, the advocates at CWEALF can help you understand and consider your rights in the matter. In addition to women taking family leave at the time of birth or adoption, fathers also have the right to take time to be at home during the crucial first weeks after the birth or adoption of a child.
  • Continuance of Insurance Benefits. No employer can hold the threat of discontinuing health insurance over an employee’s head due to the need to take family leave. Under the law of the FMLA, employees are protected against such action and must be able to continue receiving the same health insurance benefits they did while working. This issue is a vital one as family leave is often taken due to health issues requiring treatment. Removal of insurance benefits is not only a violation of an employee’s rights, it also poses a threat to the attainment of necessary medical treatment.
  • A Job to Return To. Knowing there’s a job to return to after taking family leave provides essential security to employees. Under the law of the FMLA, employers must provide an employee on family leave with the same job or one that is similar and has similar pay. Those taking family leave should never have to face fears that they won’t have a job to return to once they’re ready to come back to work. In some instances, if a company can demonstrate they are unable to hire an employee back for the same or similar job, exceptions to the law might be made. If you find yourself in this position, it’s wise to consider speaking to an advocate to make sure your know your options and rights.
  • Pressure Regarding Family Responsibilities. Family leave can be taken due to an employee’s own illness or to care for family member during illness. An employer who places undue pressure on an employee for wanting time to care for a loved one is not respecting the employee’s rights to do so.

According to Connecticut state law, any private employer with 75 or more employees living within the Connecticut state boundaries must provide family leave to employees who have worked at least 1000 hours in a one-year period. While most companies and employers provide family and medical leave in accordance with the guidelines of the act, there are those who don’t. The advocates at CWEALF work with people who feel they may have been the target of workplace discrimination preventing them from family leave or from the protection provided by the law. While meeting with a CWEALF advocate, you will learn your rights and options in the situation, helping you take a stand against workplace discrimination, while preserving your rights to unpaid time off and the continuance of health insurance benefits.

R. Singh


Even if it’s been determined to be the best solution to a difficult situation, divorce or the dissolution of a relationship can be a stressful and trying time. While a divorce that’s amicable can be straightforward and without complications, it’s more common for there to be a few issues requiring discussion, legal advice and court-upheld agreements to get them resolved. One of the greatest issues faced in a divorce is the issue of child custody. At Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF), we receive more phone calls regarding information and resources on divorce than any other topic. Since the decisions made regarding child custody directly impact the child and parents, CWEALF wants you to be informed and empowered to make the best decision for your child. Custodial mothers face many issues for which support is vital:

  • Returning to the Workforce. Divorce is notorious for altering the standard of living to which people have grown accustomed. Women who were stay-at-home mothers before divorce often find themselves reentering the workforce due to insufficient income after the divorce is finalized. This issue becomes particularly crucial when children are involved and directly affected by a lack of income. In cases such as these, it’s not luxuries or extras that become the issue of concern, but a mother’s ability to provide for her children’s basic needs. Women who have been out of the workforce for years to parent and raise children often face difficulties in returning because potential employers often view the gap in employment as a downfall.
  • Collection of Child Support. The fact that child support is ordered by the court doesn’t mean it’s actually paid. Millions of dollars’ worth of child support go unpaid annually, leaving mothers and children unable to make ends meet. Lack of financial support is a common issue facing custodial mothers and one the legal system continues to fight. Unpaid child support is an issue that affects more than just the family not receiving the money. It also affects communities and the nation when mothers must seek support elsewhere to provide their children with basic needs. Staff specialists at CWEALF are available to answer questions and provide resources regarding the obtainment of child support.
  • Lack of Support. Although the number of single parent families is staggering, being a single parent leaves many women feeling isolated and alone. While financial support is vital, moral support and encouragement are also instrumental in a divorced mother’s ability to rebuild her life for the betterment of herself and children. Community-based support groups can serve as a crucial resource for both mothers and their children as they adjust to life after divorce. Groups that combine support and encouragement with training, education and valuable resources can facilitate a stay-at-home mom’s reentry into the workforce.
  • The Effects of Solo Parenting. Balancing work or education with parenting and the upkeep of a home often result in physical fatigue and emotional stress. When other issues such as child support and custody come into play, they can leave women feeling harried and exhausted. This is where cooperation of the ex-spouse and the following of court orders can prove to be of extreme importance to the custodial mother. At CWEALF, we provide information and answer questions regarding child custody and child support to help clients going through divorce or seeking a modification to a previously existent order for child support.

Before, during and after the establishment of child custody, it’s vital to know your rights and options, in addition to receiving informational, legal and emotional support. Our ongoing efforts as CWEALF help women going through divorce by providing invaluable information and resources to gain an understanding of their rights. Whether the assistance is provided by an advocate or through our telephone or online services, CWEALF strives to provide professionally trained assistance as you seek answers to your questions regarding child custody and other divorce-related issues.




R. Singh


The question is a tough one, and really, it all depends on where you look and what your media of choice is. Some outlets clearly are better or more objective than others are when it comes to shedding light on the current state of women’s equality. Overall, the media is doing a good job of bringing to the forefront many issues that affect women, such as pay inequality. However, it is lacking in other areas.

While men were the clear losers during this recent recession, or ‘Mancession’ as it has been named (a ridiculous play on words, but what can you do?) the equally absurdly titled ‘hecovery’ has supposedly left women out in the cold. Both Forbes and the Huffington Post ran articles in the past week about the recovery and women’s place in it.

Though the media has done its work in bringing the plight of women in the workplace to the forefront, it could be argued that they are confronting the wrong issues, or overstating what they are bringing to print and TV. MSNBC had a brief piece on the ‘mancession’ and ‘hecovery,’ Deborah L. Jacobs ran a piece in Forbes, and the Huffington Post also ran an article talking about women’s inability to recover along with the men in this ‘hecovery.’ These pieces seem to point out that women are once again lagging behind in being hired or rehired. Deborah Jacob’s piece references an Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) report early in her article, but right there on the front page of the IWPR, there are statistics that show that the reverse could be true. According to the study, she references, in November women gained 65,000 jobs in the workforce, while men gained only 55,000. Another piece by, oddly enough a man, Greg Burns of the Chicago Tribune outlines the woes of men in the workplace.

It is all about perspective I suppose, especially when it comes to the workplace. What is harder to slant is the still evident disparity of pay between men and women. That may be a subject for another story however.

While women’s rights are more in the forefront in the past couple of years, this could have something to do with the fact that the 24-hour news cycle has become a force in and of itself. Combine this with the fact that there are more women in the media than ever before, and you can see why women’s rights are being talked about a fair amount. There are more female correspondents in the workforce, so their opportunity to bring attention to the public is much greater.

One avenue that is clearly getting a great deal of attention, and it isn’t misrepresented, is the plight of many women in third world countries and the women that reside in the countries where we are currently fighting wars. It doesn’t take long to run across an article from any media outlet about the conditions that women in Afghanistan, Iraq and other parts of Southeast Asia and the Middle East face.

A venue in which women’s rights are being misrepresented or overplayed is the election cycles of the past few years. Take Hillary Clinton for example. During the last presidential election, several things that were seemingly harmless were quickly called chauvinistic or misogynistic and people were playing the gender card quicker than a joker on nickel poker night. On the flip side, this year when Herman Cain was facing scrutiny for his alleged infidelity and sexual harassment history, he and his supporters quickly attacked and demonized the women which further pushes women’s rights into the background.

In short, or by now in long, women have much more of a voice in the media. The major issues that severely affect women are being represented and represented well. The issues closer to home such as women’s rights in the workplace, pay differential and sexual harassment seem to be lagging behind. Perhaps these issues are being overlooked because of the strides made by women in the media and without.

R. Singh



In the last 50 years significant changes have occurred within the dynamics of our society. The idea that a company can only be run by a man and that a woman can only be a secretary is now more commonly seen as sexist. But even now, women are still faced with new challenges regardless of whether they live in a developed or underdeveloped country. Women have to overcome constant struggles and challenges in their lives.

Although we live in a male dominated world, I believe that the obstacles we are faced with represent a good reason to want and push for positive action, for progress and for educating and empowering women everywhere. Women all over the world have realized that being silent when confronted with hardships and struggles is no longer a viable option. Times are changing rapidly and our voices are being heard. Yes, it is an ongoing process. So much work needs to be done when it comes to the role women play in all aspects of our society but in the meantime, we are rediscovering ourselves.

We are capable of accomplishing so many great things that were taboo not long ago.

Although women are not a minority in this world (we are half of the population), there are still noticeable discrepancies in the composition of top level executive jobs. For example, the higher you move up on the corporate ladder, the less diversity you will notice. The corporate world is still a male dominated one. But, there is a new trend that began in Europe and is starting to catch on.  I believe that large companies should lead by example. Women are only 15% of board members at big American firms, and 10% in Europe.This represents a squandered opportunity. Companies that fish in only half of the talent pool will lose out to those that cast their net more widely. There is also evidence that mixed board rooms make better decisions than monolithically male ones do. When a board includes a variety of viewpoints and attitudes, the boss’ ideas are more likely to be put up for discussion and even challenged which adds a new dynamic to the environment. 

This trend began in Norway back in 2003 when the government passed a law that 40 percent of all company board members be women. As it was expected, this law sent shock waves through the business community, where less that 7 percent of board seats where held by women. Even though Norway is based on a strong  egalitarian society where the percentage of women that work outside of their home is around 80% this law still created a lot of controversy. And the reason was that the idea seemed radical, if not for its goal, then for the sheer magnitude of change it would require. It took Norway only 5 years to full-fill the 40% quota.  This can be seen as a important milestone towards  breaking those barriers that are in the way of  gender equality. This measure should be seen as an opportunity for women to show their leader skills. Let’s hope that in the near future leaders will be choose based on their qualifications, their talent, and not based on their gender.

Many say bringing women into Norway’s boardrooms has led to subtle changes in group dynamics, noting that directors “male and female” come to meetings better prepared and seem more engaged in discussion. A recent study of American firms found that attendance at meetings of boards with members of both genders was higher compared with all-male boards.

Other European countries followed Norway example considering a similar legislation, but this is just the beginning because, in the corporate world the power remains concentrated in the hands of men.

In the United States, women represent roughly 15 percent of the board members, while in other countries like India or China is around 5 percent of board seats. Compared to countries other than those from Europe, there is a noticeable progress regarding women in executive positions. For example, I was reading the other day in the newspaper that Fortune 500 companies is looking at having 18 female CEOs in 2012 vs.16 this year. This is actually a record. Previously, there haven’t been more than 16 female CEOs at Fortune 500 firms at the same time. According to the data released by the research company GMI, in 2011 there were 98 female CEOs of 3,049 publicly traded companies. That represents 3.2% of the total company CEOs (in 2010 was 3.1% and 2009 2.9%). Although for the past 5 years the progress has been flat, it can still be seen as going in the right direction. The message sent is that women in key positions make great role models for all the other women out there.

Although gender diversity at the top levels in the corporate world is no longer a utopia, it is still a tedious process. Breaking stereotypes is not an easy task. It takes time and determination. But I believe that if women are given a chance to show what they are truly capable of, it will be a win-win situation for everybody. The history has shown us what it is to live in a male-dominated world, a world that doesn’t reflect our society. Women are no longer silent bystanders, but also role-models for the generations to come.

More info:

Daring to Do in Tough Times - NYTimes.com

More Women in Norway’s Boardrooms, but Limits Remain - Nytimes.com

Deutsche Telekom Struggles With Gender Goal - NYTimes.com

The Wrong Way to Promote Women - The Economist


B. Perez


In today’s economy, the modern woman finds herself confronted with a significant number of challenges. So many times we see women trying to balance their career and family; Multitasking has become part of a woman’s daily routine. A great number of women are still attempting to do it all: be a wonderful wife and mother, have a successful career, make time to socialize, and still have time for their hobbies and interests.

Being a modern woman in today’s society is not easy, due to the challenges we are faced with on a regular basis. Many professional women still feel societal pressure to prove themselves. Even though we are in the 21st century, and we have seen a lot of progress, women are still faced with obstacles. There’s a lot more to be done. For example, women still earn less than men. While the gap is getting smaller, it’s still a gap…and the women are on the wrong side.

The data offered by the World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development published by the World Bank this month, offers pertinent information regarding women in today’s society from around the world.  In the past 20 years, women’s lives have seen a substantial improvement but at work gender inequality is still a persistent reality. It is still a global “trend” for women to earn 10-30% less than men. Another interesting fact pointed out by the World Bank’s report is that economic growth does not narrow this gap. Additionally, there is a clear division between “men’s jobs” and “women’s jobs.” Women are now predominant in fields like retail and public administration, communications, health and education. However, traditionally male occupations have seen no significant change. Men still dominate industries such as transportation and mining. The numbers don’t lie: 11% of men work in construction; only 1% of women do.

According to the the World Bank, there are three reasons that can help us explain why this is happening:

1. Discrimination. Some laws (and people) treat the sexes differently, and women are seen less capable to do certain jobs.

2. Women do not have the same access to education that men do which can lead to women being less qualified than their male counterparts. Though advances in female education are widespread, they are not universal.

3. The main reason that women cluster in low-paid fields, the bank argues, is that they do not control their own time.

“A consequence of this uneven sharing of responsibilities among men and women is that women usually enter the labor market with the additional responsibility of domestic work, which affects and shapes the extent of their participation in labor markets and the returns on their endowments.”

In developed countries like Italy or Austria women do at least three times as much housework and childcare as men. Compare this to a less developed country like Cambodia, where they do 50% more. Income has little to do with this.

Not surprisingly, women are more likely than men to take informal or part-time work. There are cases where this is a voluntary choice but sometimes they are pushed by employers’ attitudes or sexist laws. The bank concludes that:

“Reducing the burden of domestic chores on women’s time can open up opportunities in other areas. (…) Progress has been tremendous where lifting a single barrier is sufficient [for example, in education]” 

The reality is that the beliefs and attitudes of an entire society are difficult to change. Due to human biology, women will always have the babies and men in general will always be physically stronger. It’s just a fact of life, but this isn’t what makes society sexist. It’s that women are still paid less, and the off-balance ratios of men to women in jobs that can be done just as well by either sex. People still assume a secretary is a woman and a mechanical engineer is a man. Change may be slow, but it’s happening!

Additional source: Women Across Cultures: A Global Perspective, 3rd Edition by Shawn Meghan Burn

B. Perez

Women Nudged Out of German Workforce

In a related article leading German women are profiled and they each describe their experiences as women in a leadership position. Their opinions are split over the proposed female quota. Some feel it would “feed suspicion that the woman isn’t where she is by her own doing.” Others feel it’s only one of many steps needed to promote gender equality in Germany.