By Lori Saldaña
As a former California Assemblywoman and chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, I helped direct funding and prioritize bills on issues that impacted millions of women and children around the state.
This included protecting funds for maternal healthcare programs and childcare, and expanding programs for women doing caregiving for older adults in their families — often while working and caring for young children at home.
As a mother and healthcare professional, Sarah will bring important perspectives to her work as a legislator.
Sarah knows that women continue to face even more challenges in 2020, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many refer to this as a “she-cession” as working mothers are often forced to choose between managing their parenting responsibilities, or reducing their work hours.
I’m confident Sarah will be a strong voice for parents who are struggling with these issues. And I know from my own experience in Sacramento that we need the skills and experience of more women, more mothers, and more maternal healthcare professionals in the legislature
We need more women to help guide the state through a deadly pandemic that is forcing parents to perform impossible balancing acts: provide childcare, assist with in-home teaching, and still find the time and energy to travel to a job or work from home, and earn a living to financially support their families.
Last week, the plight of one working mother in Sacramento — Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks — caught the state and nation’s attention and showed how far the Legislature needs to go to support new moms.
As a nursing mother, Wicks had requested that she be allowed to vote on bills from her home in Oakland. Nine California Senators were being allowed to vote via an online system, while under quarantine related to COVID exposure.
Wicks requested the same option, to avoid exposing herself and her young daughter to COVID in the capitol building.
Unfortunately, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (a new father himself, of an 11-month-old) refused Wicks’ request.
Since Wicks’ daughter breastfeeds every few hours, Rendon’s decision forced her to travel to Sacramento, along with her infant. That’s why, late at night on August 31, she appeared on the Assembly floor, holding her fussing, weeks-old daughter under a loose wrap as she spoke and cast a vote on a bill that needed her support.
Wicks’ dilemma — continuing to care for her child, and still do her job — resonated with working mothers everywhere.
Her floor appearance illustrates what happens when legislative leaders fail to understand the challenges new mothers face. It shows why we need more women and mothers like Sarah Davis in elected office, and in leadership in Sacramento.
Having more women and more mothers in Sacramento will ensure that women’s voices — and their unique experiences as mothers — are heard, and reflected in legislation and policies in the years ahead, as California recovers from this pandemic.
Lori Saldaña represented the 76th District in the state Assembly from 2004 to 2010.
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