America’s Mothers are In Crisis. Unemployment Statistics Can’t Capture the Full Extent of What Women have Lost. COVID Is Pushing Black Mothers Out of the Workforce at a Staggering Rate. How COVID-19 Sent Women’s Workforce Progress Backward. The list goes on and on and on. The deluge of national headlines surrounding the pandemic’s calamitous toll on women – especially BIPOC women and moms – are sobering, stomach-churning and downright maddening, yet necessary for us to collectively understand the magnitude of the problem and take swift action to solve it.
Since March, women have taken it on the nose, with many of us catapulted into a multitude of new roles, serving as teacher, nanny, camp director, short-order cook, IT guru, nurse, you name it – all while simultaneously holding down full-time, paying jobs. Millions of women have had to make that “forced” choice to scale back their career, or in many cases altogether quit their jobs to become full-time caregivers. On the other end of the spectrum, the pandemic has caused many jobs to vanish, specifically in the service and hospitality industries, which are dominated by BIPOC women. Last month, the National Women’s Law Center issued a report showing that 100 percent of the jobs lost in December were those held by women. Sadly, years of progress toward the advancement of gender economic equality has been reversed in a matter of months.
I’m a working mother of two very active young boys. I have a job that I love, leading operations for an analytics-driven, technology-enabled healthcare marketing and communications organization whose mission is to make the world a healthier place. I have an incredibly supportive spouse – the yin to my yang. I consider myself lucky, fortunate and incredibly privileged to be in this position given the current circumstances.
However, with this privilege comes a sense of duty. As a working mom in an executive role at an organization whose workforce comprises nearly 70 percent women, I am empowered to use my voice and my position to support women in staying in or returning to the workforce in full force, ultimately reversing this “she-session” so that we continue to move forward in the journey toward gender equality. Here’s how we can make this happen:
Activate your Inner activist and demand more.
As we are acutely aware, large-scale societal, systemic issues directly contribute to this national crisis we are facing, as women continue to leave or be forced out of the workforce. As sociologist Jessica Calarco so eloquently stated, “Other countries have social safety nets. The U.S. has women.” We need a solid plan to recover from this she-session and to significantly boost the participation of women in the workforce while also providing the societal support they need to thrive. I’m thrilled to see progress at the government level with the White House’s recently formed Gender Policy Council, which focuses on “uplifting the rights of women and girls and restoring the country as a champion for women and girls.”
But the White House cannot go at this alone. We must stay engaged by continuing to support candidates who push for policies that advance key issues, including women’s economic security, racial justice, healthcare, affordable childcare and more. Be active in the next election cycle. Advocate for these policies at the local level and within your workplace. Use your VOICE!
That’s what Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani along with hundreds of other business executives and celebrities are doing. They’ve asked the Biden Administration to implement a Marshall Plan for Moms, pushing for basic income, paid leave, retraining programs, school reopening plans and more. You can actively join in on this fight. Sign your name to the plan and spread the word amongst your friends, family, colleagues and via your social channels.
Elevate + amplify BIPOC women’s voices.
The pandemic is exposing America’s vast race and gender inequities when it comes to economics, with Black and Latina women continuing to remain at the bottom of the economic echelon. However, work is being done at the government, corporate and community levels to change this. Recently appointed chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor, Janelle Jones, along with several other powerful leaders have established Black Women Best, a framework for prioritizing the economic well-being of Black women in effort to “bolster immediate recovery efforts, build durable and equitable institutions, and strengthen collective prosperity.” L.A.-based nonprofit New Economics for Women is helping Latinas address race, gender and economic disparities amid the pandemic and has directly helped increase income and financial resources, including job attainment/improvement, increased savings, debt reduction, relief assistance, asset creation and more – all indicators of economic mobility.
What can we as individuals do? Get involved and/or donate to key nonprofits with BIPOC women-centric missions. NEW, Loveland Foundation and Sadie Collective are some good ones that bring significant opportunity to women of color. Additionally, actively help to elevate BIPOC women’s voices within your organization. Empower them to share their thoughts and ideas; promote their skills, abilities and experiences; give them credit for their work; and celebrate their professional wins.
To truly move women forward and ensure that WE thrive now and into the future, economic equality policies and access to affordable childcare support must be addressed head-on. We’re getting closer and I am more hopeful now than ever before.
If we work together, we can collectively help women rise. Let’s continue the good fight. I’m ready. Are you?