February 23,2009 – by Allison Stevens, Washington Bureau Chief, Women’s ENews
Rep. Jan Schakowsky is hoping for a “big change moment” to tackle women’s concerns.
WASHINGTON (WOMENSENEWS)–In June, Michelle Obama made a last-minute decision to take time out of her campaign schedule to speak at the annual fundraising luncheon for the National Partnership for Women and Families, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., that lobbies for workplace fairness and balance.
It was an auspicious sign that the group would have a key ally in the White House if her husband, Barack Obama, won the presidential race.
Now first lady, Michelle Obama has appointed Jocelyn Frye, formerly the general counsel for the National Partnership, to be her policy director and has pledged to use her position to help working women balance responsibilities to their careers and families.
Michelle Obama has not publicly laid out a work-family legislative agenda; a spokesperson did not return a call for comment.
But the president supports legislation that would narrow the gender pay gap, lower the cost of child care, encourage companies to offer flexible work schedules, protect workers with caregiving responsibilities from discrimination and expand leave benefits to employees.
Efforts to tackle these problems have come up short in recent years, partly because President Bush opposed many of them.
But with a new president and first lady championing work-life balance issues–and with Democrats in firmer control of Congress–lawmakers and advocates see the possibility for major change on the horizon.
“I have every hope this is one of those moments, those big change moments,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat who is the new co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues, a bipartisan group of female lawmakers in the House of Representatives. “I don’t see change happening in small increments.”
Schakowsky spoke to Women’s eNews in a recent interview.