At WLI, we watch the trends in regards to women in the workforce. We are paying particular attention to the research surfacing about the intersection of working women and the pandemic. The pandemic uncovered a pain point that women, particularly working mothers, have been grappling with for decades. In fact, 1.3 million women have left the workforce since the pandemic started.
Mentioned in current research, working women are affected by the accessibility to good, quality, affordable childcare. In a recent 63-page report from LeanIn.Org in partnership with McKinsey, they found that 76% of mothers with children under the age of 10 say childcare is one of their top three working challenges. With the pandemic, many daycares not only shut their doors but shuttered. School, both public and private, turned to remote-only coursework, leaving working mothers to make up the difference, often at a significant personal cost to them.
This disruption of the status quo has led many women to re-evaluate their jobs and positions within companies. Holly Richardson, a graduate of WLI’s Political Development Program and columnist for the Deseret News, wrote about this topic in May of this year. She interviewed many women about how they are feeling in what she termed a “wasted year.” Below are two quotes that we feel reflect the general trend in women in the workforce, shaped by the pandemic.
“I’m more focused on the flexibility offered by my employer than opportunities for advancement. I was a director but took a manager position because I needed to be available more to my children.”
Another shared, “I am hesitant to accept opportunities for advancement due to concern that I won’t be able to manage increased responsibilities at work in addition to family responsibilities.”
Additionally, this Spring the New York Times did a series called the Primal Scream. They focused on several points of the pandemic and its intersection with working mothers. In one article, Working Mothers are Struggling, Here’s What Would Help, the author shares these points:
“Instead of a structural solution and policies, we’ve relied on the unpaid labor of women, who are at a breaking point,” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, chief executive of MomsRising, a policy and activist group.
Many of the lists and schedules of last spring have been replaced by new routines, whether it’s waking up before dawn to work or trading child care duties with a spouse or neighbor. But having a routine to survive the days doesn’t mean mothers are OK.
People talk about how moms can lift a car off their children, but even though you can do it, it doesn’t mean you didn’t do damage to your body when lifting the car,” said Betsey Stevenson, an economist at the University of Michigan who advises policymakers on issues affecting women and families. “2020 was like lifting a car off your kids; 2021 is going to have to be ‘How are those women able to heal?”
According to the numbers and research still coming out – mothers and other working women are not healing. The policies that might help them are slow to change. So instead, they are quitting the workforce in droves or downsizing their jobs. In short, we are failing our women.
And why does any of this matter? Because women impact the bottom line. Because women have statistically had a hard time jumping from manager to senior levels. And if at this point, women managers are leaving, or overall women in the workforce are decreasing, that makes the gap in the pipeline for women working towards senior leadership that much more daunting. We want more women with access to senior leadership positions within companies and this trend is hurting that objective. Millions of women leaving the workforce matters and is of concern to us.
We will continue to watch this trend and would be interested in hearing your own experiences with this topic, either as an employer or as an employee. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.