What do the United State and Papua New Guinea have in common? We’re the only countries in the world without paid leave. Sure, some employers are better than others at offering paid sick time and family leave policies, but nothing is guaranteed by law.
That’s where the new documentary from Ky Dickens, Zero Weeks: America’s Family Leave Crisis and the Cost of Doing Nothing, gets its name. An award-winning director, Dickens was present on February 20 at a screening of this, her fourth film, at the HUB on University Park Campus. The screening included a panel discussion afterward and was presented by the Penn State Commission for Women; the Sustainability Institute; Rock Ethics Institute; University Libraries; University Staff Advisory Council; and the Department of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, along with many community partners. After the screening, Dickens shared some of her experiences that didn’t make it into the film.
This national issue affects us all on a local level. “With so many Pennsylvanians living either paycheck-to-paycheck or already unable to make ends meet, [events such as] an illness, caring for a loved one, or the birth of new child presents an economic hardship for many families throughout the Commonwealth,” says CFW Co-Chair Tatiana Zwerling.
The 50 or so people in attendance got to hear from Dickens and the following panelists on this issue:
- Anne Ard, executive director, Centre County Women’s Resource Center, member, Pennsylvania Commission for Women
- Dr. Allyson S. Huggins, Mount Nittany Physician Group, Pediatrics
- Matt Kaplan, professor, intergenerational programs and aging, Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education, Penn State
- Kara Lawler, English department chair, Grier School, writer at MotheringtheDivide.com, co-author, “A Letter for Every Mother”
- Regan Long, co-author, “A Letter for Every Mother”
- Jill Wood, associate teaching professor, Department of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, Penn State
States including California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey have passed family leave policies, which is a good start, and groups like Paid Leave for PA are making efforts to get similar legislation for Pennsylvania. If you’re interested in learning more, a DVD of the documentary is available through the University Libraries, and a recording of the panelist discussion will be available on YouTube from Sustainability @ PSU.