CONSUMER FORUM

Despite high national ranking, Maine still must work to help working mothers

Posted May 11, 2014, at 12:02 p.m.

With Mother’s Day just behind us, it seems a good time to take note of a recent report on working mothers.

WalletHub, a personal finance social network, issued a report last week on the status of working mothers. Maine ranked fourth best overall in the study, which looked at factors such as wage disparity, parental leave policies, child care, and a half dozen others.

Women who read this column will be quick to point out that, while they make up about half the workforce, their pay overall is roughly two-thirds that of their male co-workers. In addition to their relative lack of buying power as consumers, many women find themselves penalized when they take time off to care for a sick family member.

The authors of the WalletHub study recognize the inequalities and pose a couple of hard questions: “Should women have to choose between their career and their family? And, even more importantly, are we prepared to accept the societal consequences of these under-the-gun decisions?”

Those authors offer no quick solutions. Rather, they list the states in terms of their dealing with the challenges of working and having a family. The nine factors in the rating of states were child-care quality, child-care costs, access to pediatric services, public school quality, gender pay gap, ratio of female to male executives, parental leave policy, length of average woman’s workday and average commute time.

While ranked fourth overall, Maine finished 12th among states in what WalletHub termed Professional Opportunities Rank (gender pay gap and female/male executive ratio). Maine’s rank for child care (the first four categories) was 18th. Our work-life balance rank (workday length and commute time) was fourth, the same as the state’s overall ranking.

It’s no surprise that the Maine Women’s Lobby says, despite Maine’s relatively high ranking, there’s room for improvement. Danna Hayes, the group’s director of public policy, said items needing attention include equal pay, leave time, access to child care and raising the minimum wage.

“Until we take action on these fair workplace policies, working moms in the United States — whether it’s here in Maine or across the country in Alaska — will continue to lag behind the rest of the world in terms of equality in the workplace,” Hayes said.

Sharon Barker, director of the Women’s Resource Center at the University of Maine, said many women who are trying to further their education face even bigger challenges.

“Some of the most hardworking and determined students I see are those who are trying to pull themselves out of poverty. They have all kinds of demands on their lives plus the demands of going back to school,” Barker said.

The WalletHub report ( http://wallethub.com/edu/best-states-for-working-moms/3565/) may raise more questions than it answers. They’re questions that deserve serious consideration.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

 

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