by Jackie McMakin
Speaking to a packed house, Governor Madeleine Kunin, introduced her new book, “The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family,” at the Flying Pig in Shelburne last Thursday evening, May 10.
“I had a struggle with the title,” she began, “because this book is really for men and women about how we can unite behind what’s good for families.” The governor’s presentation was introduced by Darrilyn Peters, staffer at the bookstore and political activist. “Madeleine has so many achievements – mother of four, member of the Vermont legislature, the only woman governor of Vermont, Ambassador to Switzerland, author of several excellent books and now this new look at the support systems we need for families so that women have the same opportunities in business and government as men.”
“The book started with anger,” said Kunin. “I am angry that even with the women’s movement of the 70s; women still make 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. The United States is tied at 69th place in the percentage of women in parliaments, out of 178 countries. I expected that a high percentage of the Fortune 500 companies would be led by women. The figure is three percent.” Kunin’s book shows that women are behind because our society does not support two-career parents and single mom families, the new norm. It is time for another social revolution that will benefit families, Kunin says.
“But there is good news too. Surprisingly, the Department of Defense is the ‘Gold Standard’ for providing high quality affordable childcare for all military families. They know that childcare is a national security issue,” Kunin stated.
We can learn from other countries on how to support people as workers and family people. For example, 90 percent of French children are in high quality daycare run by well-paid and trained teachers recognizing the importance of a healthy start. Audience member Barbarina Heyerdahl, commenting on a recent trip to Norway found Norwegians saying with great pride, “We take care of each other, and we take care of the planet.”
To truly invest in families, according to Kunin, we need to do two things simultaneously: defend what we’ve won and move forward toward full gender equality, paid family leave, flexible schedules, and excellent affordable childcare. What is needed to affect change is a united voice, men and women working together, advocacy groups united in creating change. Kunin’s book shows how what’s good for the family is also good for the bottom line. The book offers a roadmap forward. For anyone concerned with “work/life balance,” and who isn’t, Kunin’s book would be an excellent gift. Her many practical suggestions offer lots of possibilities for how we all might be part of the change that is so needed.
by Jackie McMakin