From Our President. Becoming Our Own Best Advocates
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Over the summer, the US women’s soccer team won the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the fourth time. While this was an incredible accomplishment, the team also raised important issues on their path
E-QUAL PAY! E-QUAL PAY! E-QUAL PAY! Thousands of fans chanted as the women’s team celebrated on the field after beating the Netherlands in the final game. The chants continued as fans lined the streets of New York City for the ticker tape parade. The pay equity issue was highlighted throughout the month-long World Cup—coverage was all over social media, on the front pages of daily newspapers, and in financial papers and magazines. Players spoke out, elected officials took action, and the various professional soccer organizations and associations had to take a stand.
As the Huffington Post reported,
The gender pay gap that has long plagued women’s soccer has been thrust into the spotlight in recent years as players from all over the world have demanded parity from FIFA, the international governing body of soccer. The difference between prize money for men and women is stark. This year’s Women’s World Cup has $30 million in prize money available, The New York Times reported, whereas the 2018 World Cup for men had $400 million available. (https://bit.ly/2P0CDt4)
The July 7 article continues, “FIFA is not the only soccer organization that fails to compensate women equally. Last week, more than 50 members of Congress wrote to the U.S. Soccer Federation to demand it pay the women’s team fairly, considering female soccer players receive a base salary of roughly $30,000 less than their male counterparts.”
On July 11, after the victory celebrations were over, Ashley Reese wrote an article for Jezebel.com, “A World Cup Champion Also Struggles to Afford Childcare.” The piece highlights Jessica McDonald, who shares,
I’m the only mom on the national team [USWNT]. And then amongst the National Women’s Soccer League [NWSL], there are seven of us. It’s so hard, oh my God. The best way I can describe it is that it takes a lot of mental toughness. Of my career in the NWSL, I’ve only played one season where I wasn’t a mom. Trying to figure out a routine is probably the hardest thing, and because I got traded a lot, I had to find new babysitters and child care all the time. Child care in particular was very difficult, because it’s expensive and we don’t get paid much. If I put [my son] in a daycare, that’s my entire paycheck, you know? (https://bit.ly/30phbys; emphasis in original)
Does that sound familiar? I was struck by how the equal pay story was so prominent during the World Cup, yet the piece about childcare struggles came out after the competition was over. It seemed like an afterthought, which is sometimes how we see early care and education positioned in the news.
We have all heard the statistics about how expensive early care and education is for families with young children. In fact, Child Care Aware of America and the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment collaborated to produce a short video that answers the question in its title: “Why Do Parents Spend So Much on Child Care, Yet Early Childhood Educators Earn So Little?” You can see the video and read more information here: https://bit.ly/2z71RuZ.
To be a good advocate, you need to be informed. This video helps to break down the complex issues of funding streams, business models, and the economics of early education and provides a wonderful platform from which to continue this important conversation.
Another important piece of advocacy is sharing your story. Imagine if educators and parents watched this video together and then had the opportunity to share their personal stories and reflections.
Imagine how much more parents would know about all the hard work and preparation it takes to provide a high-quality experience for their children. Imagine if parents were able to better understand how many early childhood educators are going back to school, taking classes, earning degrees, finding mentors, and improving their practice while (in most cases) barely making minimum wage, going without health insurance, and working another job to make ends meet. Imagine if parents could share their hopes and dreams for their children, explain why sometimes it is difficult to hear about when their child has a hard day, or express their worries about making good decisions for their child.
Imagine if parents and educators could be stronger allies in advocacy—fighting for greater investments in early education and in educators together. Imagine the rallies at state houses across the country with signs: “Parents can’t afford to pay. Teachers can’t afford to stay. Public investment is the way.”
Parents and educators could be stronger allies in advocacy—fighting for investments in early education and in educators.
But we don’t have to only imagine! We can do this. We need to speak up, ask our elected officials to take action, and join NAEYC and take a stand. Let’s remember NAEYC’s core beliefs from our Strategic Direction and use them as our guide: excellence and innovation, transparency, reflection, equity and opportunity, and collaborative relationships.
Over the next year, you will have opportunities to share your story; to help ensure an accurate census that counts all kids; to empower parents and educators in your community to vote; and to join conversations on social media and in town halls with parents and colleagues across the United States.
Join us—as the advocates you are and must be—to insist that our country deliver on the promise of high-quality early childhood education for our children, families, and communities.
- Excellence and Innovation—We are imaginative risk takers willing to challenge assumptions while being accountable to our mission and fiscally responsible.
- Transparency—We act with openness and clarity.
- Reflection—We consider multiple sources of evidence and diverse perspectives to review past performance, note progress and successes, and engage in continuous quality improvement.
- Equity and Opportunity—We advocate for policies, practices, and systems that promote full and inclusive participation. We confront biases that create barriers and limit the potential of children, families, and early childhood professionals.
- Collaborative Relationships—We share leadership and responsibility in our work with others. We commit time and effort to ensure diverse participation and more effective outcomes. We act with integrity, respect, and trust.
For more information on NAEYC’s values, beliefs, and mission, visit NAEYC.org/about-us/people/mission-and-strategic-direction.
Photograph: © Getty Images
Amy O'Leary serves as President of the NAEYC Governing Board.