There’s been buzz lately around the gender pay gap. Active California legislation, AB 1354 (Dodd) and SB358 (Jackson), intend to bring equal pay to women. This past week, California Assembly Woman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, announced a proclamation on Equal Pay Day, which fell on April 14 this year. But there’s an important piece missing from the conversation: In order to close the gender pay gap, we must address employment barriers that keep single parents in poverty by encouraging family courts to equally award parents custody of their children.

Advocates state that women earn only 77 cents for each dollar earned by a man – an unfortunate reality that stems from research showing that one of biggest barriers to women completing higher education, obtaining employment and advancing within their careers is the lack of affordable childcare options. Our family courts could help turn this around by treating parents equally and encouraging meaningful and equal relationships between the child and both parents. When parenting is shared,  women are enabled to participate more fully in the workforce. Custody schedules are arranged around both parents’ work schedules, maximizing the time that the child is with each parent and reducing the overall childcare costs. And since parents are sharing in the educational opportunities of their child, time off for school sickness and activities is also shared. 

Unfortunately, in California and throughout the nation, shared parenting is rarely awarded. Instead, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in more than 80 percent of child custody cases, one parent,  receives sole custody, while the other parent is reduced to “visitor” status. Fortunately, one-third of our nation’s states currently have an active solution. Right now, at least 17 states are considering shared parenting legislation that works to make parental equality the new norm in instances of divorce or separation.

Further, the same studies that show there is a pay differential between men and women also show that the primary reason for this differential is the type of job performed and the number of hours worked in that job. Social paradigms are changing, and more women are becoming breadwinners. Men are taking on more household responsibilities and engaging more consistently and thoughtfully in the raising of their children. If we are to encourage equality, give women opportunities to work overtime when they want, socialize with colleagues when they want and seek mentorships and training that can help them advance their careers, we must have shared parenting after divorce and separation.

Clearly, shared parenting makes sense as part of the solution to eliminating the gender pay gap. The measures proposed throughout the country would help and encourage women to share the challenges of raising a child with the other parent – challenges which are often barriers to employment and career advancement. Help close the gender wage gap. Support shared parenting today.