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It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a U.N. conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. While the report highlights advances in some areas, it also points to places around the world where full equality has not been achieved -- including the United States, where it says there is still a lack of adequate maternal leave policies.
A private school teacher who wants to be identified only as Barbara, because she is worried about repercussions for speaking out, is expecting her second child and is worried about making ends meet.
“Most private schools do not have a maternity leave program because they are too small and it’s too expensive,” said Barbara.
Barbara can use 20 days of her paid sick and vacation leave but if she has to take time off after that, she would not be paid. She says the solution is disability insurance, but that would only pay a percentage of her income when she’s not working.
“I was insulted that, ‘oh having a child, bringing into society another productive member who will be paying taxes their whole life and working for the betterment of the society hopefully,’ that there was no thought behind the label of: 'oh well you’re disabled because you’re having a child.' That seems to be sort of crass to me,” she said.
Similar experiences are not uncommon in the United States said Jody Heymann, founder of the University of California Los Angeles’s World Policy Analysis Center.