Shelby Ramirez Martinez
Pictured: Shelby and her daughter
As a woman working a low-wage job, it can be a struggle to make it paycheck to paycheck. When my younger daughter needed surgery at the same time that my elderly father needed immediate medical attention, times were tough. If not for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), I would not have been able to take time off from work to care for them. But having to take time off unpaid was an enormous financial burden for me. I had to choose between paying rent and caring for my family. I needed to make sure they had medications and healthy meals. After not paying rent and utilities, it took me four months to get partly caught up with my bills.
Women are almost half the workforce in the U.S. We also do much more than half of the unpaid work caring for family members1. In households with two working parents, moms spend about 75 percent more time on childcare than dads. Women are also two-thirds of the caregivers for sick, elderly, or disabled family members.2 This culture of female caregiving means that having no paid family leave hits women’s paychecks harder than men.
Although FMLA is great and I was able to keep my job, we need the FAMILY Act, which would institute a paid family and medical leave insurance program. Having paid family and medical leave is necessary now and for the future of our families. Establishing paid family leave is also a necessary step to close the gender wage and stop punishing women financially for taking care of our families. That’s why I’ve gotten involved with 9to5 and am taking action to ensure that all of us are able to be there for our families when our care is needed.
This blog post is part of 9to5’s collection The Face of the Wage Gap to illuminate the ways that the gap between the income of men and women has many factors and many necessary solutions. Please share these blog posts with your social media networks.