Race, Gender, and Work/Family Policy

33 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2015

See all articles by Nancy E. Dowd

Nancy E. Dowd

University of Florida Levin College of Law

Date Written: 2004


Family leave is not an end in itself, but rather is part of a much bigger picture: work/family policy. The goal of work/family policy is to achieve a good society by supporting families. Ideally, families enable children to develop to their fullest capacity and to contribute to their communities and society. Public rhetoric in the United States has always strongly supported families. Our policies, however, have not. In the area of work/family policy, the United States continues to lag behind every other advanced industrialized country, as well as many developing countries, in the degree to which we provide affirmative support for families. Limited family leave and child-care support are halting steps toward a policy that affirmatively supports families.

In this Article, Professor Dowd argues that our work/family policy must be race and gender conscious in order to affirmatively structure law and policy to achieve egalitarian goals. Professor Dowd contends that in structuring work/family policy, we must address whether any suggested policy promotes the equality and well-being of all children and families. Race is the central issue that must be addressed within the presumed gender focus of work/family issues. In the context of ongoing racial inequality, advocates for work/family policy must commit to real equality among children by fostering and supporting all families. In the context of ongoing gender inequality in wage work and caregiving roles, advocates must envision deracialized gender equality and design policies to achieve it.

The Article proceeds in the following manner: Part I briefly outlines the nature of work/family conflicts and describes the core components of a comprehensive work/family policy. Part II contends that putting race at the center of gender analysis exposes critical issues for work/family policy. Part III argues that the primary gender issue of work/family policy is envisioning an egalitarian model of families as the basis for structuring policy. Finally, Professor Dowd concludes that a comprehensive work/family policy framed around principles of race and gender equality, understood as interdependent with other equality efforts, is essential in order to make real our promise to our children that they are equal.

Keywords: FMLA, family medical leave act, race, gender, work/family policy

Suggested Citation

Dowd, Nancy Elizabeth, Race, Gender, and Work/Family Policy (2004). 15 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol'y 219 (2004), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2666044

Nancy Elizabeth Dowd (Contact Author)

University of Florida Levin College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 117625
Gainesville, FL 32611-7625
United States
352-273-0930 (Phone)
352-392-3005 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.ufl.edu/faculty/nancy-e-dowd

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