There's this harsh empirical reality:
The main barrier is the harsh price most workers pay for pursuing anything other than the old-fashioned career path. “Women do almost as well as men today, as long as they don’t have children.”
And these optimistic policy implications:
There are steps that can help. Universal preschool programs — like the statewide one in Oklahoma — would make life easier for many working parents. Paid parental leave policies, like California's modest version, would make a difference, too. With Australia’s recent passage of paid leave, the United States has become the only rich country without such a policy....We’ll have to get beyond the Mommy Wars and instead create rewarding career paths even for parents — fathers, too — who take months or years off.
Research and debate on gender discrimination and the labor force is still happening in full (as I'm learning in my Analysis of Discrimination class). This weekend, I'm heading to the Midwest Economic Association annual conference to present a paper (to be shared later) and the one I've been assigned to review is on patterns of mothers who opt-out of the labor force completely. Should be pretty interesting...