21st-century policies for 21st-century families

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Hi, everyone --

I still remember the moment the value of a flexible work environment became crystal-clear for me.

I was working for Mayor Richard Daley in Chicago, and sitting in a particularly long cabinet meeting along with the Mayor's corporation counsel, Susan Sher. Susan and I were both single moms, and dear friends -- and frankly, we both had somewhere else to be.

As the meeting stretched on, and the two of us kept looking at our watches (and each other), the Mayor interrupted and asked where we needed to be that was more important.

Not quite sure what would happen, I blurted out the truth: "Susan and I both have second graders, and their Halloween Parade starts in 20 minutes -- and it's 25 minutes away."

Without a second's hesitation, the Mayor replied, "Well, then what are you doing here? You better get moving."

We were fortunate that day to have an understanding boss willing to give us the flexibility we needed as parents -- but in 2014, most working Americans still don't have that.

It's time for our workplace policies to match the realities of our families. That's why, on June 23, we're joining together with employers, business leaders, workers, academics, labor leaders, elected officials, and a diverse group of stakeholders and advocates to explore ways to take to scale the best practices designed to build 21st-century workplaces that meet the needs of 21st-century workers.

We're calling it the White House Summit on Working Families, and you can add your voice to the conversation right now in two ways:

Our families and our workforce have undergone fundamental transformations over the past several decades. In 63 percent of families with children, all parents work. Thirty-two percent of families with children are single-parent households. And yet, employers report just 11 percent of workers have access to paid family leave that includes time off for caregiving.

It's time our workplaces did something about that, and it's going to take all of us to make it happen.

So, if you can relate at all to the story I described above -- the need to choose between the very real responsibilities of being a worker and a parent -- then working families' issues are your issues.

If you're a young woman wondering if you're earning the same as your male counterpart, this is your battle, too.

If you're a single, working dad struggling to balance the responsibilities of raising a family with the demands of a job, you're in this fight.

It's time for 21st-century workplaces that allow every American family to succeed -- both at home, and at work.

Each story shared will expand this national conversation, and bring these issues to the forefront.

Add your voice -- and pass it on.

Thank you,


Valerie Jarrett
Senior Advisor
The White House


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