The American Case For Paid Maternity Leave, A Ted Talks With Jessica Shortall

Driven by surprising data and punctuated with the raw stories of real working mothers, Jessica Shortall makes the impassioned case that the reality of new working motherhood in America is both hidden and horrible: millions of women, every year, are forced back to work within just weeks of giving birth. The United States is one of only nine countries with no national, paid maternity leave; the next-largest is Papua New Guniea. Shortall argues that the time has come for the U.S. to recognize the economic, physical, and psychological costs of this approach for working mothers and their babies, and to secure its own economic future by providing paid leave to all working parents.

Jessica Shortall is a social entrepreneur with a career as diverse as her curiosities. She has been a Peace Corps Volunteer, a non-profit co-founder (The Campus Kitchens Project), a consultant to social enterprises, an early TOMS Shoes-er, and an advocate for LGBT rights (Texas Competes). She is the author of Work. Pump. Repeat: The New Mom’s Survival Guide to Breastfeeding and Going Back to Work (Abrams, 2015). She holds a BA from Wake Forest University and an MBA from Oxford University, where she was a Skoll Scholar in Social Entrepreneurship. She is a working mother of two who is currently hanging on for dear life.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at


Paid Family Leave GraphicPaid Parental Leave Resources

Kindred’s Articles and Videos on Paid Parental Leave

Center for Parental Leave Leadership

PL+US, Paid Family Leave for everyone in the US. Paid Family Leave Petition

National Partnership for Women and Families

The Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act

Paid Leave Fact Sheets

State Paid Leave Laws

Paid Family Leave/Paid Family and Medical Leave Research

Other Federal Paid Leave Legislation

More on Maternity Leave from MomsRising:

Motherhood manifestoKnow the Facts

  • Having a baby is a leading cause of “poverty spells” in the U.S. — when income dips below what’s needed for basic living expenses.
  • In the U.S., 49% of mothers cobble together paid leave following childbirth by using sick days, vacation days, disability leave, and maternity leave.
  • 51% of new mothers lack any paid leave — so some take unpaid leave, some quit, some even lose their jobs.
  • The U.S is one of only 4 countries that doesn’t offer paid leave to new mothers — the others are Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and Lesotho.
  • Paid family leave has been shown to reduce infant mortality by as much as 20% (and the U.S. ranks a low 37th of all countries in infant mortality).

What You Can Do



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