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To Achieve a Truly Just Economy, We Need to Prioritize the Needs of Working Mothers

Society has seen an unprecedented exodus of women from the workplace since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. Eleven million women left the workforce during the Great Resignation of 2021, many of them working mothers who were burnt out, faced mental health challenges and overwhelming childcare responsibilities. Reshma Saujani’s latest book, “Pay Up,” argues they were driven out of workplaces that were never equitably designed for working mothers.

Saujani inspired me as a full-time working mother to twins to think more deeply about the trauma many working mothers experience. Household labor and caregiving work have traditionally fallen upon women. This workload was compounded for women during the pandemic. Since 2020, women have worked double shifts, managing homes, work responsibilities and their children’s virtual education experience. Since the pandemic, Black and Latina women and other women of color left the workforce in higher numbers than ever before due to the lack of access to affordable child care and other related challenges. 

The pandemic exposed the built-in bias and the lack of economic, domestic and community infrastructures that function against working mothers. For example, when schools closed, a virtual educational environment was created, and it was assumed that women would take on this burden while still working full-time. This assumption devastated working mothers, causing many to leave the workforce to tend to these responsibilities.

If women are to bounce back from the trauma of the pandemic, gender inequality also needs to be resolved at home, says Saujani. Domestic partners need to share in mothers’ caretaking and household responsibilities. When support structures are created, families are encouraged to share in domestic labor, which benefits the economy and the country.

Though remote work productivity skyrocketed in many ways during the pandemic, there is a trend to return to the old normal. The needs of working mothers are still not top of mind for many companies. The difference now is that women are not eager to return to antiquated workplaces that don’t work for them.

Many companies use jargon to show dedication to work-life balance, but they don’t back it up through their corporate culture, policies or day-to-day operations, Saujani notes. Since family care responsibilities disproportionately burden mothers and women of color, companies need to have empathy and demonstrate real flexibility for all workers for a paradigm shift to occur.

In “Pay Up,” Saujani discusses the need to normalize workplaces that care about families. True commitment from companies entails benefits such as paid or subsidized child care, health insurance that includes mental health therapy and paid leave. Employers need to track caregiver status identifying those taking care of children or elderly parents so that status can be protected. Companies should create goals for retaining working mothers and women of color due to their disproportionate share of care duties because they tend to leave workplaces at the highest rates, and elevate them to senior executive positions.

Making policies beneficial to working mothers also benefits the bottom line. Companies that promote more women to executive positions and employ more women executives do better than companies that don’t. Companies need to be intentional about diversity, equity and inclusion. If we are to achieve a truly just economy, the needs of working mothers, working mothers of color and single mothers must be prioritized.

Monica Grover is NCRC’s Project Manager for Membership, Policy & Equity

Photo courtesy of Monica Grover.

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Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The new study, from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

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