As an educational leader, I welcome seeing policy changes in the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 to afford working parents and caregivers leave that extends beyond the allotted 12 weeks especially for public education professionals. As an educator in a public school system in Northern Virginia, I appreciate that my employer provides parents and caretakers an option to take leave through FMLA and also to take a Leave of Absence (LOA) for 12 months and have their position held during the duration of that time. Essentially, the school system makes one-year only hires to cover individuals that choose to take a leave of absence. Where this is an option with my current employer, my previous school system did not offer that option to take a leave of absence after completing my 12 weeks of maternity leave. As a result, I resigned and chose my family over my career. Looking back, I should not have had to make that choice, and neither should other parents or caregivers.
Amending the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 to require employers to allow employees the choice to extend their 12 week FMLA and elect to take a leave of absence, would provide many working adults an ability to balance family and their careers. Previous court cases that made it all the way to the Supreme Court like Phillips v. Martin Marietta Corporation (1971), displayed employers’ awareness of the level of caretaking necessary for children during their early years. Where this case was presented to the courts for hiring discrimination against Ida Phillips because she was the mother of young children, it most certainly could be reviewed as a reason to support policy change to FMLA that would include a clause that employers should provide employees the choice to take a Leave of Absence and have their position held for them to care for their children during the earlier years for at least 12 months. This type of change would eliminate the potential setbacks that individuals could face for prioritizing their family over their career. As an educational leader that took an extended break from my full-time career to care for my family, it would have been advantageous to have a policy that allowed the option for a leave of absence. The inequalities faced by women especially in education to be forced to choose whether to prioritize their family or career, first contributes to the lack of leadership roles that women hold in both K12 and Higher Education. Enacting policies to eliminate gender inequalities in the workplace through amending the Family Medical Leave Act (FLMA) of 1993 or developing another policy to address leave for parents and caretakers is needed.
The journey towards gender equality is not for the faint at heart, as a leader recognizing this need for change will be something that I seek to address given any opportunity that allows for my voice to be heard. In the future I do aspire to be in a position in educational leadership where I could share my personal journey in my career to support changes if they have not occurred by then.