When I was United States Ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, I asked for the highlights of their cross-country data on women's economic conditions. Inspired by that provocative data, the other members of the OECD and its Secretary General decided to launch a new gender initiative. Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing data from the gender initiative and other related OECD reports.
As I wrote in The Atlantic in 2003, the traditional family—one breadwinner and one homemaker—has been replaced by the "juggler family" with either two working parents or a single parent who works. Nine years later, the nation no longer clings quite so tightly to the ideal of the 1950s family, but policies and practices lag behind. The US is the only OECD country without paid maternity leave; a parent's job isn't protected if he or she takes a day off to care for a sick child; and the US still lacks affordable, high-quality child care. This could all change in Obama's second term: He has said he's committed to working with states on paid family leave, supports legislation to provide paid sick days, and has invested in grants to states raise standards in their early learning programs while also supporting expansion of he Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.
One big improvement since 2003: In the Atlantic article I pointed out that mandatory, universal health care coverage would be the best gift to parents seeking flexibility and security because it would allow those with flexible schedules or in less standard jobs access to affordable health care for themselves and their families.