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Student’s concerns inspire project

Women everywhere are affected by different forms of sexism and discrimination.  

One Pittsburg State University student has started a project for a women’s studies course at PSU in which she found a topic she believes is passed over sometimes.  

Micah Pianalto, senior in business finance, chose to undertake a project on the lack of maternity leave requirements in the United States and the effects it has on working women.  

“I decided to focus on the lack of maternity leave requirements in the United States because I think it is often an overlooked issue in the lives of women,” Pianalto said. “Women’s rights are still a work in progress, and it is evident in the workforce. Women may not be able to succeed and thrive at work and be equal counterparts at their jobs due to the lack of accommodation and paid leave protection for women who choose to have children. Women are crucial members of the workforce and should be treated as such.”  

Pianalto argues that paid maternity leave is not unattainable.  

“…Many countries have enacted ample paid leave time for both moms and dads after welcoming a new baby, and the United States is hugely lacking in this area,” Pianalto said. “If other countries can gladly accommodate new moms and families, why is the U.S. so far behind? It is possible to put in place overreaching policies that provide protected paid leave for working mothers, but the U.S. fails to.”  

As a mother herself, Pianalto can understand the struggle of new moms who are forced to return to work for any number of reasons.  

“This issue is important to me because as a mom, I have experienced firsthand the huge transition that a new baby brings to women and families,” Pianalto said. “When my child was… (six) weeks old, I realized that many women would already be returning to work or have already. It made me sad and angry that women are expected to jump right back into working when their bodies may have not even healed completely from childbirth.  Many new moms do not have a choice whether to return to work because of financial strain. Paid maternity leave would ease the financial stress on women and families and would allow more bonding time, less stress, less postpartum depression, and increase success in breastfeeding. Women bear the burden of pregnancy and childbirth. The systems of power neglect this fact and fail to protect and value these women.”  

According to Pianalto, the U.S. Department of Labor, specifically the Wage and Hour division is responsible for FMLA requirements and medical leave.  

“…Reaching out to this division and voicing concern for the lack of paid leave for working moms is a way to interact directly with the system that has the most power to make a change,” Pianalto said. “Simply making people aware through social media that changes need to be made and are possible is a way to bring awareness to this problem. This issue is overlooked, and once people realize and agree that women and are deserve better treatment in the workforce, the more likely there will be a discussion about what changes should be made.”  

Pianalto hopes to see big changes in the future.  

“It may be a radical solution, but 6 months of paid leave is regardless of time spent at the job, size of the company, and regardless of other stringent requirements FMLA deems necessary to decide whether someone can qualify for leave is a guideline I would strive for,” Pianalto said. “I would like to see a true effort from the people in power, specifically the Department of Labor, to speak for women and to set policies in place that are broad and overreaching to allow working mothers and mothers-to-be to have paid job protection postpartum.”  

The goal of the project is to bring awareness to the issue.  

“…Many women know that it is very hard to transition back to working life and to simply return to work after having a child,” Pianalto said. “I think that it has become too normalized to struggle and to fight for worker’s and women’s rights. Women are fighting to just receive the bare minimum amount of time off from work to heal and recover after this major medical event, and most often are not even compensated for it. Women are fighting their jobs to keep their seat open at work. Once awareness is brought to this issue, people can begin to fight and protest for paid maternity requirements. When more people bring this issue to light and begin to demand changes, the more likely changes will be made.”  

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