Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande (R-11) is one of the legislators who is looking for ways to make New Jersey the best state for working women. She told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that she has been involved in discussions with business leaders and academic leaders about the issue and has suggestions for New Jersey companies to achieve that goal.
Women make up 53 percent of the entering workforce, but just 19 percent of the top leadership jobs, according to Casagrande. She calls the phenomenon “the leadership gap” and wants companies’ policies to reflect modern times.
“We have these old work rules set up based on the 1950s sitcom lifestyle. America’s not living that way any more. Now we have moms and dads, everybody’s working. More people are working through the recession. More people are also working by choice,” Casagrande said. “And we said, ‘What kind of policies can we implement to make sure New Jersey is running women up to the top of those corporations?'”
According to Casagrande, one of the best actions companies can take is have a clear path to promotion and encourage employees to apply for open positions. She also encourages companies to adopt flex time for workers.
“That really allows for people to get their work done on their schedule and still parent because we do live in a world now where both parents are working and unfortunately by virtue of gender roles, women have a tendency to shoulder more of that burden,” Casagrande said.
She encourages job sharing, meaning two people can share a full-time position, and compressed work time. While these practices benefit employees, Casagrande said they are also beneficial to the employers.
“We want New Jersey companies to understand that when they keep these employees, when they reduce turnover, they’re going to grow their bottom line. And it’s also the way we’re going to grow the New Jersey GDP,” Casagrande said.
Another bill Casagrande has introduced would give tax credits for childcare. “What we’re looking to do is reduce what we call the mommy wall or the workforce dropout,” she said. “And that’s where childcare costs exceed your earnings for that particular period of time — it’s about five years — where you have to work and have those kids in daycare.”
Casagrande said she has seen interest from both Republicans and Democrats for the childcare tax credit bill and believes it will go a long way toward helping women in the workforce. She said she encourages all types of childcare choices, including home-based providers, daycare centers and single providers.
Some may worry that the current economic climate won’t allow companies to make some of the changes, but Casagrande disagrees. “It’s a tax credit so it’s really pro business,” she said. “It’s less money they’re sending to Trenton. And we firmly believe that when we keep these women in the workforce, when we grow their wages, we are going to grow New Jersey’s economy and that will be more money in the state coffers long term.”