Samantha Samel
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In case you missed it, this past Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence tweeted out a photo showing a large group of men discussing the (ultimately unsuccessful) legislation that had been proposed to replace Obamacare.

Who’s missing from the photo? You guessed it -- women. Why does this matter? Beyond what’s obvious -- the glaring underrepresentation of women in government -- the photo is particularly unnerving because, according to Vox, the group was contemplating “whether the bill should include a repeal of 10 ‘essential health benefits’ that insurers in the individual marketplace must cover. Among those benefits is pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care.”

In other words, the dozens of men pictured -- some of whom seem to be more tuned into their phones than the conversation -- were discussing cutting millions of women’s access to these critical, potentially life-changing benefits.

As Vox reporter German Lopez puts it, the absence of women in this photo “isn’t a coincidence. As my colleague Sarah Kliff has explained,” he writes, “research shows that when women are put in positions of political power, they’re more likely than men to speak to women’s issues.”

That said, why would Pence and his team shy away from bringing women’s perspectives to this conversation? A Politico article indicates that Pence has been trying to make Trump’s health insurance plan more appealing to those on the far right, some of whom “have long argued that insurers should be able to sell skimpier coverage that, for example, wouldn't cover maternity or mental health services.”  

Despite the evidence that paid parental leave is beneficial not only for women’s health and happiness -- but also for all parents, AND for employers, the U.S. lags far behind other developed countries in offering comprehensive care.

Many companies have begun to offer more generous and gender-neutral parental leave plans, and politicians like U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are pushing hard to pass paid leave legislation. Yet the photo of Pence and his team is a grim reminder of how hard we must continue to work to get women (and men!) the parental benefits they deserve.

If you want to help but you’re not sure of where to begin, you can start by (anonymously) reviewing employer’s policies on Fairygodboss, where we have a crowdsourced maternity leave database. While you may still feel entirely absent from Pence’s table, helping to increase transparency is an important step in the right direction.

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