Moms have the power to transform child care in America. This is what stands in their way.

Image: vicky leta / mashable

A new mom never knows when she’ll feel utterly alone and desperate. Maybe it’ll be when she’s laid out her pumping equipment in a closet-sized room at work only to realize she’s forgotten the power cord. Or when her bus stalls on its way home, and she knows her infant son will need to go directly to sleep after she picks him up late from daycare. Or when she’s finally crawled into bed and it’s at that precise moment her baby wakes up screaming.

Sometimes parenthood is downright grueling. But the frustration inherent in moments like these is compounded by the reality that American politics has made a sport of using families, particularly mothers, as heartwarming props but abandons them when it comes to policy. 

New moms look at a system where paid family leave is a fantasy for most and finding affordable, accessible child care is akin to winning the lottery, and ask: Is there really no village to help raise the next generation? 

Is there really no village to help raise the next generation? 

The initial shock of realizing there is no proverbial village to aid families gives way to outrage, then exhaustion, then surrender. Moms decide it’s not worth expending what little energy they have on what feels like a quixotic quest to convince policymakers that families deserve much more. But that long-warranted pessimism is being replaced by fresh confidence that change is within our reach, thanks in part to politicians talking about solutions to this problem. 

After launching her presidential campaign last month, Elizabeth Warren quickly unveiled an ambitious plan to provide high-quality, accessible, and affordable child care to American parents. A week later, Warren’s Democratic colleague in the Senate, Patty Murray, reintroduced her Child Care for Working Families Act. When the Trump administration released its new budget this week, it called for $1 billion in funding for states interested in increasing supply for child care. 

Child care quality, accessibility, and affordability has taken its rightful place as central to our political debate today. And while this is far from just a mom’s issue, women now have a unique opportunity to channel their anger at a broken system into pressuring politicians and presidential hopefuls. They can and should demand that the people elected to run this country fix a crisis that threatens far too many families.  

That may feel like too lofty a goal for moms who, despite this progress, are still as tired — and financially tapped out — as they were before child care started making headlines. Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO and executive director of MomsRising, a grassroots advocacy group, can relate. Even though she sees powerful momentum toward meaningful policy changes, she knows that a lot of parents are consumed by the day-to-day reality and expense of raising small children. 

In 2017, the latest year for which data is available, 4.9 million households spent almost $36 billion on early child care, which includes nurseries, day care, and preschools, according to a recent Moody’s Analytics report. Nationwide, sending a kid younger than five to full-time care cost nearly $10,000 per year on average, but it can exceed more than $20,000 in more expensive cities. Regardless, the typical family spends 10 percent of their annual income on child care. (Warren’s plan, which includes access to free care, would cap that figure at 7 percent.) 

Even as parents spend bank-breaking amounts on ensuring their child has a safe, enriching place to spend the day, they’re still juggling how to cover gaps in care when their provider is sick, closes for vacation, or doesn’t offer extended hours. 

“It’s exactly the moment when you need the help the most, you hit the wall the hardest.”

“It’s exactly the moment when you need help the most, you hit the wall the hardest,” says Rowe-Finkbeiner. 

That’s why she recommends breaking up your advocacy into bite-size pieces, like signing a petition to support legislation, sending a digital letter to your member of Congress, or sharing your child care story on social media to create awareness of the problem amongst your network of friends and family. More time-consuming tactics include writing a letter to the editor on the subject of child care, attending a town hall meeting and asking a candidate or representative to explain their position on the issue, and volunteering with MomsRising (or another advocacy group) to receive training to share your experience with lawmakers. 

To put it simply, Rowe-Finkbeiner says, you can “look for moments when your voice can make a difference.” 

If you find the various policies confusing and aren’t sure what to support, you can start with the premise of making high-quality care affordable, accessible, and a well-paying career for providers, who now earn a mean annual income of $23,760. Increasing wages, quality, and supply will take a massive amount of money that can’t come out of the average parents’ pockets. That’s why Warren proposed an “ultra-millionaire tax” to fund a government investment large enough to match the scale of the crisis. Whether you agree with that approach or not, try to get familiar with why it’s impossible to move forward without some form of government intervention. 

Though MomsRising tends to support progressive policies, and criticized the White House’s new proposal as “wholly unacceptable,” Rowe-Finkbeiner says she’s glad Republican leaders are talking about child care. 

“It’s absolutely essential that people of all political parties step forward to solve this crisis,” says Rowe-Finkbeiner. “We just need to make sure solutions aren’t false solutions or wolves in sheep’s clothing.” 

One way to make a such a distinction is considering whether a child care proposal helps to create that village of support so many mothers need. Importantly, the solutions shouldn’t play into the idea that the dearth of high-quality, affordable child care is somehow parents’ fault because they didn’t plan in advance, save enough money, or get a promotion. 

“We don’t have an epidemic of personal failings,” says Rowe-Finkbeiner. “We have a structural issue which clearly we must address together.” 

“We don’t have an epidemic of personal failings.” 

That means a lot of middle- and upper-class moms will need to think beyond the language of luck, which sounds a lot like this: “We’re so lucky to be able to afford this daycare. We’re so lucky that our parents can babysit during the week. We’re so lucky that we got the last spot available.” When women frame their child care fate around luck, it becomes so personal that you may not even think about it as a systemic problem that needs to be challenged.

Not every mother will want to fight for better child care policies, either. 

Marissa Martino Golden, an associate professor of political science at Bryn Mawr College, believes there’s still widespread cultural ambivalence about the fact that many moms work full-time while children are young. The powerful conservative Christian lobby, which includes plenty of moms, may reject the importance of supporting more affordable, accessible child care because its focus is on promoting stay-at-home mothers. Middle-class moms may feel there’s stigma associated with sending a child to daycare or think child care cost and access is their personal problem to solve, so they aren’t eager to demand help from the government. Meanwhile, moms who live paycheck to paycheck might urgently want access to high-quality care but possess few resources to make that clear to their elected officials. 

These are real social and cultural barriers, and they stand in the way of shifting public opinion toward comprehensive legislation that transforms child care in America. But Golden thinks it can be done with the right framework, particularly if advocates can make the case that businesses would benefit under better child care policies while also persuading the public that child care isn’t a private matter to be handled by families but a question of national importance. 

So, with that in mind, mothers should talk about what their families need, without embarrassment or apology, no matter how often their ideological opponents cast them as freeloaders or socialists or undeserving. The louder their voices get, the harder it will be for the public and politicians to ignore, slander, or silence them. 

The truth is that moms have the power to help bring the village they’d envisioned to life.  

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Pornhub released new info about what women are searching around the world

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Pornhub released a pretty extensive report on what women around the world are searching. Let’s just say it gets interesting.  Read more…

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This campaign wants UK politicians to wake up to the dangers of the gender data gap


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Image: vicky leta / mashable

The real-world ramifications of the gender data gap are all around, us all the time. 

From the size of the phone currently in your palm, to the temperature of the office you’re sitting in, to the way your car has been built, to the way the medicine you take has been made. 

A new book by feminist campaigner and author Caroline Criado Perez has uncovered the dangers of not collecting data about women, and the fact that data bias is putting women’s lives at risk. 

A new GoFundMe campaign led by writer and activist Tracy King aims to send a copy of the book — Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men — to every MP in the country in the hope that lawmakers will take action about this important issue. 

The campaign aims to crowdfund enough money to send a copy of the book to every MP with the aim of getting them to read it and take tangible action. King told Mashable she believes Criado Perez’s book has the power to change the world, which is why it’s important our lawmakers are aware of the extent of data bias’ impact. 

Criado Perez spent three years researching and writing the book, which brings together a wealth of information about the dangers of the lack of sex-disaggregated data — data specific to women. The consequences of not collecting data about women means that urban planning, medicine, transportation, policy, design, manufacturing, and engineering are all overlooking women’s needs. 

“We knew we were second-class citizens but we couldn’t prove it before.”

King says the reason the book has already proved hugely resonant before it was even published is because women have been going through life with the knowledge that these problems already existed. “We sort of already know this, we low-level know, but we never had the proof before,” says King. “Women just went, ‘oh thank goodness, there’s proof,'” she adds. “We knew we were second-class citizens but we couldn’t prove it before.”

It goes without saying that it’s important that women, the people affected by the data gap, are aware of the book, but it also needs to fall into the hands of people in power who can do something about the data gap, says King. 

“The decision-makers, the people in power, they’re the ones who make the laws, the regulations, and the policies that directly affect women, how things are built, and how things are made,” says King. “And they need to read this book, they need to know the book exists.”

The GoFundMe campaign needs to hit its £6,750 goal in order to purchase enough books to send to all 650 members of parliament. 

“I don’t fool myself into believing all 650 MPs are definitely gonna sit down and diligently read the book and then do something. If we don’t ask, we don’t try, and if we make enough noise, then some of them, the important ones who’re the decision makers in the areas that affect women in engineering and STEM, they might do something.”

“Every law, policy of regulation that the government touches, I want them to be thinking about how that impacts women.”

King feels that female MPs will likely be interested to read the book because they “recognise the issue,” but she would like to see male MPs read the book because they might not be aware of the scale of the data gap. “It’s the ultimate way to force them to check their privilege,” says King. 

In an ideal world, King hopes that MPs will start looking at the laws, regulations, and policies that disadvantage women. 

“The government funds a huge amount of medical research, and they could make it mandatory to have gender equality in your research funding proposal,” says King.  “Big changes could be effected if people in power decided, ‘well ok, you can’t have government funding for something if you’re not considering women.'”

“I want every law, policy of regulation that the government touches, I want them to be thinking about how that impacts women,” says King. “Do a gender impact assessment as default.” 

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The first all-female spacewalk takes place March 29th

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After several decades of human spaceflight, you’re finally going to see the first all-female spacewalk. NASA has confirmed that astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch will venture outside the International Space Station on March 29th. This wasn’t intentional, the agency told Axios — it just so happened that the particular crew aboard the ISS led to the team-up. If you’ve been following the progression of the space program, however, it might not be quite such a surprise.

All of the American astronauts who’ll be aboard the ISS by the end of March are from NASA’s 2013 class, the first where women represented 50 percent of the team (2017’s class was 42 percent women). Simply speaking, you’re statistically more likely to see women suiting up than you were even a decade ago — it was just a matter of when a team’s composition would skew female.

You might not see similar spacewalks from other countries in the near future. Russia’s 2018 class is all-male, for example. It’s a start, though, and it won’t be surprising if the March 29th mission heralds more varied spacewalks for a long time to come.

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We aren't collecting data about women and it's literally putting their lives at risk


Every product here is independently selected by Mashable journalists. If you buy something featured, we may earn an affiliate commission which helps support our work.

Image: vicky leta / mashable

Night after night at the stroke of midnight, the street lights in my hometown would switch off, plunging everything into darkness. I lived in this town for three years during my twenties — three years of having a self-imposed curfew because of local authority cuts. 

During those years, I had to make like Cinderella and get home before 12. Not because my car would turn into a pumpkin, but because I was terrified I’d find myself outdoors in the pitch black night. Every plan I made had to factor in the impending darkness that would arrive like clockwork, bringing with it an immediate threat to my safety. Without setting out to do so, my local authority had failed me. 

Leafing through the pages of a new book by feminist campaigner and writer Caroline Criado Perez, I read a line that reignited the anger I felt about my curfew (albeit, a self-imposed one). “Urban planning that fails to account for women’s risk of being sexually assaulted is a clear violation of women’s equal right to public spaces,” writes Criado Perez in Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed For Men. 

“What’s interesting is that [councils] often say things like, ‘oh but the crime doesn’t go up,’ without accounting for the fact that women don’t go out because we’ve self-imposed a curfew,” Criado Perez tells me. 

“Numbers and data are meant to just be numbers and data, they are not meant to carry society’s problems within them.”

In her book, Criado Perez takes on the invisibility of women in a world that has not only been designed by men, but with men — and men alone — in mind. A dearth of sex-disaggregated data — data specific to women — means that urban planning, transportation, policy, design, manufacturing — are overlooking the needs of half the world’s population. By failing to collect data about women, designers and scientists look through the prism of the “default male” — “seeing men as the human default” when designing products, medicines, our streets, and cities, as Criado Perez puts it. The real-world implications of the hegemony of this male default creates a data gap, causing women daily discomfort to placing their safety and lives at risk. 

Criado Perez — who spearheaded the campaign to erect a statue of a suffragist outside parliament — spent three years researching and writing this book, which essentially reads as an extended investigation into the tangible ways in which women’s lives are affected, and placed at risk, by this data gap. “We have unconsciously just presented the world as male,” says Criado Perez. “Women are being left out of numbers, data, the way in which we allocate our resources, the way in which we design safety for cars, the way in which we design medicine.”

Women serving in the military are provided with equipment designed to fit male bodies. Citing a British Army report, Criado Perez states: “Women in the British Army have been found to be up to seven times more likely than men to suffer from musculoskeletal injuries, even it they have ‘the same aerobic fitness and strength.'” The non-existence of anthropometric female crash-test dummies also means that the impact of car crashes on female bodies isn’t being investigated. Seat-belted female drivers are 47 percent more likely to be seriously injured in a car crash than their male counterparts, a study by the University of Virginia’s Centre for Applied Biomechanics revealed. 

The kernel of the idea for the book came when Criado Perez was researching her last book Do It Like a Woman, and she discovered that female heart attack symptoms are considered atypical and doctors are failing to recognise them. “All the public information I’d ever seen was about typical male heart attack symptoms, so I wouldn’t recognise if I were having a heart attack. Then on top of that, to realise that doctors aren’t realising it either, I just couldn’t believe it really.” “Science is not meant to be like this, science is meant to be objective, science is not meant to suffer from sexism,” Criado Perez tells me. “Numbers and data are meant to just be numbers and data, they are not meant to carry society’s problems within them.”

Caroline Criado Perez, author of Invisible Women.

Caroline Criado Perez, author of Invisible Women.

Image: Rachel Louise Brown

But, there are aspects of so-called “women’s work” that we simply aren’t collecting data on, Criado Perez says. “Women working in nail bars, there’s very little data on how all the chemicals and dust from filing acrylic nails is going to be impacting on them,” she says. As Criado Perez cites in the book, a 2014 review by Anne Rochon Ford, women working in nail salons are frequently exposed to toxic chemicals linked to “cancer, miscarriages, and lung diseases.” 

“Because we just aren’t used to thinking of women’s occupations as dangerous.” Indeed, the absence of data on the health impacts of work for women offer a glimpse of how society might view work carried out by women. “We don’t measure it because it’s just seen as ‘women’s work,’ and that can’t possibly be difficult and dangerous.”

“It’s just seen as ‘women’s work,’ and that can’t possibly be difficult and dangerous.”

Reading this book, it’s difficult not to be alarmed. And, Criado Perez says that we should be alarmed. “No one wants women to die,” she says. “I think that when people are made aware of it, they do think it’s shocking.” But, that’s not to say that these industries aren’t aware. “There are people who know about this,” she says. “None of the stuff that I have uncovered is stuff that people in the field don’t know about. Researchers know about this.”

Criado Perez spoke to Astrid Linder, research director of traffic safety at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute, who’s working on what she hopes will be the “first crash-test dummy to accurately represent female bodies. Linder told Criado Perez that female crash-test dummies were suggested in the 1980s, “manufacturers lobbied to not have to include them because of the cost.” 

“When you hear things like that, you can’t help but think, maybe it is a lack of care,” says Criado Perez, caveating that she also doesn’t believe people are evil or that this is some kind of conspiracy. “You would hope that people would put women’s safety above profit margins,” she adds. 

So, how do we go about bridging the data gap and reducing the very real risks that it carries? Well, the answer is right in front of us. “It’s incredibly simple, you just need to collect data on women,” says Criado Perez. “Collect sex-disaggregated data, full stop, the end. The solution is so blindingly simple. It can be fixed tomorrow, you just need to start doing it.” 

Image: Penguin randomhouse

Hiring female researchers and ensuring women occupy roles in every echelon of an organisation is also vitally important. “Having women in all positions of your company, from the top to the bottom is not just a box-ticking exercise — it is incredibly important for the outcomes of the work you do because all the evidence shows that women just don’t forget women,” says Criado Perez. 

“Collect sex-disaggregated data, full stop, the end. The solution is so blindingly simple. It can be fixed tomorrow, you just need to start doing it.” 

Hiring more female researchers is one way to ensure that gender-analysed work is produced, but encouraging more young women to enter the STEM field is important — particularly given that only 23 percent of the UK STEM workforce is female

In the weeks preceding its publication, Invisible Women has already proved hugely divisive on social media. “There are men who have been very angry saying ‘but men work in the most dangerous occupations,'” says Criado Perez. “There is this idea that women’s work just isn’t dangerous, but that’s because we know about the dangers of men’s work because we’ve been collecting data.” 

This isn’t a book about individuals, it’s about how systems are failing women. I ask Criado Perez if perhaps this data gap can offer us an insight into the way women are seen in society. 

“Insofar as we aren’t seen,” she replies.  “The data gap to me is at the heart of basically everything about the way women are discriminated against,” she adds. “We don’t see their bodies, we don’t see their lives, therefore the world does not account for them.”

The solution is painfully obvious: don’t ignore half the world’s population. 

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