David Leonhardt pulls no punches in a New York Times column on how the economy punishes women who reproduce. He starts out with a particularly forceful phrasing an oft-noted fact: "The last three men nominated to the Supreme Court have all been married and, among them, have seven children. The last three women ... have all been single and without children." The simple fact, he argues, is that that "outright sexism is no longer the main barrier to gender equality. The main barrier is the harsh price most workers pay for pursuing anything other than the old-fashioned career path." Or, as a Columbia University professor puts it: "Women do almost as well as men today ... as long as they don't have children."
This issue doesn't "[lend] itself to a sweeping policy solution," he admits, but universal preschool programs and paid parental leave programs would be a good start. He also suggests a British-inspired legal "right to request a switch to a part-time or flexible schedule." While employers can refuse, "so far [in the UK], about 90 percent of requests have been approved." These changes won't be enough--even "in the European countries with much more generous parental leave laws, women remain far behind men," but Leonhard remains hopeful, looking, for example, at the field of obstetrics, where doctors have organized group practices which make the field much more female-friendly.