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Labor Day commentary: Challenges remain for women in a todays labor market
0902Madeleine Kunin
Madeleine Kunin
“I’m so glad you talked about maternity leave,” an obviously pregnant young woman said to me as I was walking out the door after giving a speech to a group of federal employees, about my book, “The New Feminist Agenda.”“When are you expecting?” I asked.“Mid-October, or maybe earlier,” she replied.“How much time can you take off?”“Six weeks, altogether, using vacation time, comp time, and some of it without pay,” she explained with a worried expression on her face.If she were living in any other country — except the United States, Papua New Guinea or Swaziland — she would have much less to worry about as an expectant mother. She would be able to take off for at least six weeks, often six months or even a year (in England) with paid maternity leave.Even in Saudi Arabia, where women are arrested for getting behind the wheel of a car and putting their foot on the accelerator, the laws state that women can take time off with pay during the last 30 days of pregnancy and for several months after giving birth.In the United States, women declared victory when the Family and Medical Leave Act was first signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993.