WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is encouraging more employers to adopt family-friendly policies by hosting a day-long summit Monday, even though the U.S. government doesn't always set the best example.
The United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn't mandate paid leave for mothers of newborns, although Obama says he'd like to see that change.
"Only three countries in the world report that they don't offer paid maternity leave — three — and the United States is one of them," Obama said in his weekly address. "It's time to change that. A few states have acted on their own to give workers paid family leave, but this should be available to everyone, because all Americans should be able to afford to care for a family member in need."
Obama's summit comes in a midterm election year focused in many respects on women voters, and the White House was devoting all its star power to the event — and even a surprise appearance by a celebrity to echo Obama's criticism of Mad Men policies in today's workplace. Christina Hendricks, who plays single mom Joan on the AMC drama that takes place at a 1960s ad firm, said, "In the 21st century the only place for a story like Joan's should be on TV."
Obama planned to speak midday and have a meeting with business leaders. First lady Michelle Obama planned to deliver a closing speech, while Vice President Joe Biden opened the event by talking about the value of family time. "Not all of us have the kind of flexibility that I have," Biden said.