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Opinion: If we want to support women entrepreneurs, Colorado needs a paid family leave plan

My husband and I would love to be parents someday, but that someday is hard to prepare for when you are a solo entrepreneur. In Colorado, self-employed women, like me, who want to be moms don’t have many options. Often we have to depend on a high-earning partner, our family’s emergency savings, or we have go back to work right after giving birth.

The arrival of a child should be a joyous time — not a financial emergency. And women certainly shouldn’t have to marry rich to start a family. Nor should we be required by economics to go back to work as soon as we leave the hospital, when our bodies are still healing.

Emilie Aries

Unfortunately, women who work for themselves are forced to make these difficult decisions all the time–in part because Colorado has yet to pass a paid family and medical leave program. And after much discussion this year, that idea was dropped in favor of a study bill.

I’m 31 years old, and I’m getting ready for that someday, today. This preparation includes working hard to save for my own parental leave program. I’m fortunate to have access to a financial planner who is helping us figure out how much money we need to save in order to take time off after childbirth so we can be fully present for our newborn as we find our family’s new normal. We’re still unsure of how quickly we can save the necessary funds, or how long we’ll be able to wait, considering that pregnancy for women after the age of 35 is considered a “high risk” medical condition. The absence of a statewide paid family leave program absolutely impacts when we will decide to start trying for a child.  

Some people think paid family leave policy is entirely a women’s issue, but it has an effect on men, too. My husband works for a wonderful small business that has less than 10 employees. My husband’s employer has never had an employee who needed time off to raise a child, so his business has no leave policy in place right now. As a result my husband faces a difficult choice: He can wait and see if his employer decides to offer paid family leave, or he can go work for someone else who guarantees paid time off to raise children. We’re an egalitarian couple in a feminist household, and I don’t want my partner to leave his dream job for our family’s benefit. I also would hate to see a great small company lose a valuable employee because it couldn’t afford to offer a benefit like paid family leave.

Fortunately, lawmakers have the chance to fix this problem, and small business owners support a solution already on the table. A new survey from Small Business Majority found 64 percent of small business owners support Colorado’s Family and Medical Insurance Leave Program, which would ensure employees could receive up to 12 weeks of paid time off when they need to take time off to care for a new child or a sick family member. What’s more, the survey found 58 percent of businesses with two to 10 employees don’t offer fully paid leave or have no policy in place, and these businesses comprise the majority of businesses in Colorado.

The FAMLI Act is also critical because it would also allow solo entrepreneurs like me to to opt in, and that is huge for women. After all, it’s estimated that almost 90 percent of women-owned small businesses are solo enterprises

As part of my business I offer women tools and resources designed to help them own their power over their careers and lives, while keeping it real about the unjust system we’re operating in. I’d also like to keep it real with Colorado’s lawmakers: If you truly support entrepreneurs, don’t make small business owners choose between their family and their career and don’t wait any longer to pass a comprehensive paid leave law.

Emilie Aries is the Founder and CEO of Bossed Up, where she helps women craft sustainable career paths. Her book “Bossed Up: A Grown Woman’s Guide to Getting Your Sh*t Together” is due out May 21.


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