Recently, actress Zoe Saldana spoke about the cost of childcare as a working mom on location. Should Hollywood foot the bill? Putting her net worth aside, Patrick Ball the editor of our Workplace Solutions blog, feels there’s a bigger issue to discuss here – equality in the workplace.
When Zoe Saldana, the movie star, argued that Hollywood studios should assist with the cost of child care for movie star moms, she might as well have punctuated it with the hashtag #FirstWorldProblems.
Go ahead and cue the peanut gallery. But, while you’re rolling your eyes, try not to lose sight of the very legitimate issues Saldana identifies. Here is a working mom talking about child care, a woman talking about being treated differently than men at work.
In a recent interview with USA Today to promote her movie Infinitely Polar Bear, the 36-year-old actress addressed some of the challenges she faces as a working mom. Saldana told USA Today her team has “fought to have child care included in her deals,” which she described as a “frustrating argument.”
Studios “spend more money sometimes ‘perking’ up male superstars in a movie,” providing things like private jets, bodyguards or “a really phat penthouse,” while requests for child care are more of an issue, Saldana says, according to the report.
"But then a woman comes in going, 'OK, I have a child. You're taking me away from my home. You're taking my children away from their home. And you're going to make me work a lot more hours than I usually would if I was home. Therefore, I would have to pay for this nanny for more hours — so I kind of need that. And they go, 'Nope, we don't pay for nannies.' "
To be clear: This is not about a Hollywood star’s ability to pay for her nanny. It’s about an issue that’s affecting working moms (and dads) across the United States.
Finding and budgeting for child care is one of the biggest challenges – and largest expenses – for many families. The fact that President Obama has said it’s time to treat child care like a “national economic priority” should give you an idea of the scale of the issue. In most American families, all parents work yet many find themselves in the difficult situation of having to choose between a paycheck and caring for a loved one.
Employer-provided child care is rare. However, what Saldana’s asking for isn’t all that outlandish.
According to the Families and Work Institute’s 2014 National Study of Employers, only 7 percent of employers provide child care at or near the workplace, and only 2 percent provide subsidies or vouchers to offset the costs of care directly. A higher percentage – 37 percent – provide access to information to employees to help find local child care, and most allow dependent care assistance plans to help pay for care with pre-tax dollars.
While work “perks” like care assistance benefits – heck, even maternity and paternity leave – are not commonly available, some leading employers are offering these family-friendly benefits as a competitive advantage to attract today’s best and brightest.
So, when she asks for child care coverage, Zoe Saldana, movie star, is really asking is to be treated as a valued employee.
Maybe that’s the takeaway: This isn't just another spoiled celebrity looking for another luxury. It’s a working mom asking her employer for a work benefit that will improve her work-life balance, so that she can be more focused and engaged while she’s on the job.
Supporting working families is a #FirstWorldProblem, and it’s one we should all get behind.