As a chief of staff on Capitol Hill, Lisa Sherman, 36, juggles a 2-year-old daughter with a full-throttle political career, complete with a BlackBerry that’s overloaded, a cell phone that doesn’t stop ringing and a tireless staff of 16.
Why hasn’t she collapsed from exhaustion? Flexibility. Lisa enjoys the work options offered by her boss, Rep. Susan Davis (D–CA), herself a mom of two and a grandmother of two. With the backing of the San Diego congresswoman, Lisa telecommutes two days per month and uses a comp-time “bank” to trade off late nights when she responds to West Coast constituents for playtime mornings with daughter Stella. These policies—unusual for Capitol Hill—have allowed Lisa to remain in a job she loves while raising a toddler.
To Rep. Davis—one of 30 legislators honored this year by Working Mother and Corporate Voices for Working Families in the second Best of Congress—the arrangement serves as a template for creating workplaces that are both highly productive yet flexible. “I have been amazed at how much people can accomplish,” she says, when given opportunities to make all the priorities and pieces of their life fit.
Many U.S. working mothers still don’t have workplace flexibility, let alone paid sick days or paid maternity leave. Before the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in 1993, many women didn’t take any time off after childbirth for fear of losing their jobs. But FMLA was just the first step. Today about half of U.S. mothers cobble together paid leave following childbirth by using sick days, vacation days, disability leave and maternity leave. That’s why several of our winning members of Congress are lobbying this year to expand and modernize this landmark piece of legislation, as well as a slew of other proposals.
Meet the Winners
Sherrod Brown, D–OH
Robert Casey, D–PA
Mike Crapo, R–ID
Christopher Dodd, D–CT
Kirste Gillibrand, D–NY
Kay Bailey Hutchison, R–TX
Johnny Isakson, R–GA
Herbert Kohl, D–WI
Patty Murray, D–WA
Arlen Spector, D–PA
Tammy Baldwin, D–WI
Russ Carnahan, D–MO
Susan Davis, D–CA
Rosa DeLauro, D–CT
Mary Fallin, R–OK
Chaka Fattah, D–PA
Raul Grijalva, D–AZ
John Lewis, D–GA
Carolyn Maloney, D–NY
Carolyn McCarthy, D–NY
Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R–WA
Erik Paulsen, R–MN
Dave Reichert, R–WA
Peter Roskam, R–IL
C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, D–MD
Linda Sánchez, D–CA
Allyson Schwartz, D–PA
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D–FL
Lynn Woolsey, D–CA
John Yarmuth, D–KY
How else will the 111th Congress’s actions matter to you?
After more than a decade of political stalemate on labor and employment issues, the outlook for working moms is encouraging. “The dynamic is changing,” says Marcy Karin, director of the Work-Life Policy Unit at the Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. “There’s a lot more bipartisan interest in things like workplace flexibility and paid sick days. We’re seeing a lot of renewed interest on Capitol Hill.”
That renewed interest is exactly why busy working moms need to stay informed when it comes to new federal regulations. To help, we’ve highlighted the legislation you’ll most want to track. “Working mothers are an important constituency,” says Donna Klein, president and founder of Corporate Voices for Working Families, which represents the private sector on public-policy issues and partners with Working Mother on the Best of Congress initiative. “Their voices need to be heard, whether it’s about workplace flexibility, child-care tax credits, breastfeeding at the workplace or a myriad of other issues.”
Show Your Support. Email your senators or representative. Don’t use snail mail. Mailed letters have to be security screened, which can slow down response time by weeks. Check senate.gov or house.gov for your legislators’ email addresses, and in the subject line, reference a specific bill or issue.
Reach out on recess. Legislators will be in their districts roughly between August 9 and September 10. This is a good time to seek a meeting.
Read Carol Evans' Our Bipartisan Party
Choose your moment. Your opinion means more when a bill is due for action in committee or a vote. Thomas.loc.gov lists major actions for all legislation for the current congress. You can also register with an advocacy group that will keep you posted on proposed legislation.
The Working Mother/Corporate Voices for Working Families Best of Congress winners are chosen based on their efforts to advance economically sound policies that support and create opportunities for working families, with a particular focus on workforce readiness, workplace flexibility, family economic stability, and work and family. Members of Congress submitted applications. With the help of a bipartisan steering committee, Corporate Voices and Working Mother scored the applications and tabulated the results, which determined the winners.
Corporate Voices for Working Families is the leading national business membership organization representing the private sector on public policy issues involving working families. Donna Klein is executive chair, president and founder of this nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group.
Best of Congress Steering Committee
TED CHILDS, COCHAIR
Founder and principal of Ted Childs LLC
JANE SWIFT, COCHAIR
Founder and principal of WNP Consulting LLC and former governor of Massachusetts
Attorney at Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice and former congresswoman from Ohio
Former president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers and former congresswoman from Colorado