Family leave documentary screening, panel discussion set for Feb. 20

January 29, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A screening of the new documentary “Zero Weeks” will be held at 6 p.m. on Feb. 20, in the John Bill Freeman Auditorium (117 HUB-Robeson Center) on Penn State’s University Park campus. A panel discussion will follow. The event marks the first screening of the film in Pennsylvania and is free and open to the public.

The United States is the only developed nation in the world that doesn’t offer paid family leave. For millions of Americans, the birth of a new child, a cancer diagnosis, or the need to take care of an aging parent can mean financial ruin or unemployment.

Weaving powerful stories together with insightful interviews from leading policy makers, economists and researchers, “Zero Weeks” is a new documentary that makes the case for guaranteed paid leave for every American worker. The film takes a compelling look at the issue from emotional, medical, financial, and global perspectives.

“Zero Weeks” is the fourth film by award-winning director Ky Dickens, a director with a track record of using her work to shift policy and public opinion. The film held its world premiere at the Camden International Film Festival in September 2017.

“All of my films were birthed from necessity,” Dickens said. “Following the birth of my daughter, I was faced with the experience of inadequate maternity leave, which left me in emotional and financial distress. That experience became a gateway for awareness that millions of men and women face the same situation every year.”

According to Centers for Disease Control, of the 39 industrialized countries in the world, the United States is currently ranked last in maternal health, child health, and family-friendly policies.

“We are in the midst of a huge elder boom in this country, and by 2025, one in five Americans will be over the age of 65,” said Tatiana Zwerling, co-chair of Penn State’s Commission for Women.

According to 2016 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Pennsylvania has the fourth oldest population in the United States and the fifth most residents over the age of 65. The median household income for Pennsylvanians is $54,895, and currently 12.9% of the population is living in poverty.

“With so many Pennsylvanians living either paycheck-to-paycheck or already unable to make ends meet, [events such as] an illness, caring for a loved one or the birth of new child presents an economic hardship for many families throughout the Commonwealth,” said Zwerling.

“We need to be protecting all Americans, not just the small percentage of those who qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act,” said Regan Long, co-author of “A Letter for Every Mother.”

“If this country does value family and the well-being of our citizens, it is absolutely crucial that paid leave goes into effect in every city, in every state, and across the nation,” said Long.

“The lack of paid leave in this country impacts almost all of us,” said Ellen Bravo, co-director of the organization Family Values @ Work. “The momentum behind the paid leave movement is undeniable. This film is a powerful tool to create awareness and engagement.”

The screening of the film will be followed by a panel discussion. In addition to Dickens and Long, panelists include:

  • Anne Ard, executive director, Centre County Women's Resource Center, member, Pennsylvania Commission for Women
  • Dr. Allyson S. Huggins, Mount Nittany Physician Group, Pediatrics
  • Matt Kaplan, professor, intergenerational programs and aging, Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education, Penn State
  • Kara Lawler, English department chair, Grier School, writer at, co-author, “A Letter for Every Mother”
  • Jill Wood, associate teaching professor, Department of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, Penn State

The event is supported by Penn State’s Commission for Women, Sustainability Institute, Rock Ethics Institute, University Libraries, University Staff Advisory Council, and Department of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. Community support is provided by AAUW State College, Paid Leave for Pennsylvania, League of Women Voters Centre County, and the Pennsylvania Commission for Women.

For more information about the event, contact Whitney Lloyd at or 814-865-7485.

  • Zero Weeks event flyer

    The event marks the first screening of the film in Pennsylvania and is free and open to the public.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated September 20, 2019