Leaving Family Leave (largely) out of the debate
© Getty Images

Last Monday night, the two major party nominees for president, Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonMark Cuban: My political future 'depends on how things play out' Democrats step up calls that Russian hack was act of war Comet Ping Pong shooter pleads guilty MORE and Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump handed £300bn Nato invoice to German chancellor: report Mark Cuban: My political future 'depends on how things play out' Biggest challenge to Keystone XL not political but economic MORE met on stage to debate issues important to Americans. Previously I wrote that an unexpected winner of the election might be a real, honest and open conversation about women in the workplace and work-life balance. Both parties seemed to agree.

Looking at the topics I thought this was a great opportunity to speak to these issues. They  included "America's Direction" and "Achieving Prosperity," surely the topic of family leave, women in the workplace and work-family balance would come up. Both candidates have gone to great lengths to position themselves as the champion of the working mother.

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I was optimistic.

After all, a Department of Labor report, The Cost of Doing Nothing published in September 2015 states “The Department of Labor’s Chief Economist estimates that if U.S. women between 25 and 54 participated in the labor force at the same rate as they do in Canada or Germany, which have paid leave and other family policies, there would be more than five million more women in the labor force in the U.S. This, in turn, would translate into more than $500 billion of additional economic activity per year.” 

Yes. Per year. So this isn’t just a “social issue” or a “soft issue” it is an economic issue and it needs to be addressed.

They get it! I thought when, in her first response about creating jobs and economic opportunity in the United States, Secretary Clinton said, “And I want us to do more to support people who are struggling to balance family and work. I've heard from so many of you about the difficult choices you face and the stresses that you're under. So let's have paid family leave, earned sick days.”

Then reality set in.

This was going to be more about sparring and luring one another to act “unpresidential” rather than an opportunity to share ideas and policies with the American people. In fact, the word family only came up seven times. Only one mention had anything to do with policy and not a jab on the part of one candidate or the other.

This was a lost opportunity for the campaigns and for us, the voters. Both campaigns know that millennials are a critical voting block, especially millennial women. Well issues of how to balance family and work, implement fear leave policies, and eliminate what is both a conscious and unconscious bias against new mothers returning to the workplace are extremely important to us. They reflect challenges we face every day.

But for some reason coming  out of the debate  I seem to know  more about where Donald Trump owns property and and his diversity efforts in Mar-a-Lago, and Clinton’s rebuke of skepticism of her stamina with the refrain of traveling to 112 countries as Secretary of State than about what these candidates will do to advance family-friendly policies. To say it was a let down or missed opportunity is an understatement.

The good news is we have two more presidential debates. As a women, as a millennial, as a small business owner, and yes, as a voter, I would encourage the campaigns and the candidates to realize their true audience is people like me. Discussing leave and workplace equality is not just a politically smart thing to do, it is all the right thing to do. There’s been no better time. In fact as I write this President Obama’s weekly address focuses on the importance of leave. The country is waiting and listening. As are voters like me.  

Allison Robinson is the Founder and CEO of The Mom Project. After welcoming her first child in 2015, Allison recognized the tremendous opportunity to create a talent marketplace to bridge the gap between employers looking for top talent and the millions of educated and professionally accomplished mothers across the country looking for meaningful work.


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