Why Black Women Are So Thrilled about Kamala Harris

Let me be clear—I am a white woman who is thrilled that Kamala Harris was chosen to be the vice presidential running mate to Joe Biden. I noticed the giddiness of black women and men on the days following Harris’s appointment. Every black person interviewed on television over subsequent days seemed to be smiling broadly and almost speechless with joy. The same seemed true for my black friends and colleagues. I also noticed that her appointment occurred just days before the one hundredth anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, giving women the right to vote. In fact, the Nineteenth Amendment gave only white women the right to vote, and it took another fifty years for women of color and other marginalized groups to get the vote with the passage of the Voting Rights Acts of 1965 and 1970.

Harris focused a lot in her acceptance speech at the Democratic convention on the fact that she is a black and Asian woman. Since then I have heard solidly Democratic white people say they felt left out of all the excitement of her speech and wondered, “What about me? Don’t white people count? If she becomes president some day, will white people count?” But she has a really good reason for her emphasis and joy about her appointment as a black and Asian woman.

Black women finally feel seen and valued, which has been a long time coming. An editorial in the New York Times explains that black women have been erased from the history of the suffrage movement and “the contributions of African-American women like Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Mary Church Terrell, Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells” were rendered invisible. Black women were also erased when

  • After working tirelessly for decades along with white women to gain the vote and abolish slavery, white women turned their backs on black women when the time came to press for the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment and made a deal with white men to leave black women out. White women even told the black suffragettes that they had to march at the back of the parade for the final big rally, which the black women refused to do.
  • The Seneca Falls Convention of 1848 concerned itself with many issues of interest to only white women and ignored many concerns of black women.
  • The white suffrage heroines Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony controlled the narrative of the suffrage movement by publishing a six-volume collection called History of Woman Suffrage, which left out the contributions of black women to the movement. Stanton and Anthony described the movement as one that implicitly “defined women as people who were white and middle class.”

Finally, because it took another fifty years for black women to gain the right to vote, they feel that they finally have a voice in our democracy. They feel their issues and talents have been taken for granted and largely ignored by the Democratic party between elections, and the appointment of Kamala Harris feels like a significant recognition.

In other articles on suffrage by Gail Collins of the New York Times and Monica Hesse of the Washington Post, Collins and Hesse discuss many examples of the threat perceived by white men of white women having the vote and their successful attempts to block progress on issues of concern to white women. The effort to block access to voting for black women and men continue to this day. In addition, women have not joined forces to make progress on issues of concern to them, such as pregnancy protections, healthcare, and childcare, to the extent possible. Perhaps the appointment of Kamala Harris as the vice presidential nominee will become the turning point when we work together for change.


Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Caregiving Is an Issue for Everyone

When my mother was diagnosed with brain tumors and given four months to live, I did what most of us would do if we could. I, along with my sister, temporarily moved 1,200 miles to take care of her for the remaining months of her life. Fortunately, both my sister and I were self-employed at the time. I could do some, but not all, of my work remotely. I still had to cut back to part time and reduce my income, but I was able to do that and had a supportive partner back home.

Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times writes, “Even though women have always done most of the caregiving, both paid and unpaid, it’s never been just a women’s issue.” She notes that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of family caregiving and the fragility of our caregiving systems, along with the economic impact of our lack of national caregiving policies. She notes that Joe Biden, in speaking about his experience as a single father, has emphasized that caregiving is not just a women’s issue. It is a refreshing and striking change to hear a male politician speak from the experience of a single father in support of new national caregiving policies which he plans to implement if he is elected president.

Miller notes that “nearly everybody cares for family at some point”:

  • In two-thirds of married couples with children, both parents work.
  • Nearly half of adults in their forties and fifties are caring for both children and parents.
  • The United States is the only developed Western country that does not support working parents with national policies for paid family leave or subsidized childcare.

In another article, Miller notes that among the reasons caregiving policies have not been a priority in the United States is that Americans have conflicting feelings about whether women should work. She also notes that caregiving is an economic issue for four reasons:

  • Research from the Center for American Progress shows that universal pre-K immediately increases women’s labor force participation.
  • High-quality early childhood care and education shrink racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps and prepare workers for the future.
  • The care sector is the fastest-growing employment sector and one that cannot be replaced by automation. The care sector can become a pathway to the middle class if care work is valued and respected and if care workers receive a living wage, benefits, and the ability to unionize.
  • Unpaid family caregivers could receive tax credits and social security credits to make it possible to choose to care for family members.

Now is the time to truly value families and caregiving. Let’s hope that change comes from this pandemic to right these wrongs.


Photo by Dominik Lange on Unsplash

Costs of Motherhood in the Pandemic

In so many ways, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed a deep disregard for working mothers. In a previous article I wrote about the unequal distribution of labor in heterosexual couples as women and men try to work full time from home while dealing with homeschooling, housework, and childcare. In another recent article, I wrote about the disproportionate damage to women’s careers during the pandemic. A new article by Joan C. Williams, published in the New York Times, reveals new horror stories about the impact of pandemic-caused public policies that hurt rather help working mothers. In fact, Williams suggests that many “employers are using the pandemic to get rid of mothers.”

Williams is the director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California’s Hastings College of Law. This center has existed for some years to provide legal resources to help workers access workplace accommodations and family leave. She reports that between April and June 2020, caregiver-related calls to the hotline, mostly from mothers, increased 250 percent compared to the same time last year. She notes that the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), passed this spring to provide family and sick leave for reasons related to Covid-19, is not working. The act is so complicated and excludes so many workers—such as healthcare workers, emergency responders, and employees of large companies—that it has failed to protect the people who need it the most. Here are some of the stories of people her center has tried unsuccessfully to help:

  • A single mother who is a healthcare worker and, therefore, not covered by the FFCRA was given the option to resign or get fired when she ran out of childcare options for her six-year-old and eight-month-old children.
  • A single mother who was supposed to be covered by the FFCRA requested a part-time schedule to help her deal with homeschooling and other childcare demands. She was covered by the FFCRA only if her employer agreed to accommodate her, which he did not. She was fired.
  • A grocery worker was able to return to work only if she could get the same part-time schedule she had always worked. Her employer reduced her hours to zero, refusing to answer her questions, and she was unable to collect unemployment because she had not officially been laid off.
  • Another single mother with a disabled child was fired when her employer insisted that she no longer work from home and return to the office. Because she could not take the risk of exposing her disabled child to Covid-19 by returning to the office, she was fired when she requested to be able to continue working from home. She was not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act because it is her daughter, not herself, who is disabled.
  • Worst of all are the stories of low-income women who have to return to work but can only do so by leaving small children at home alone.

Williams explains that not even the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program helps many mothers like those described above who are pushed out by employers. Employers deny these women’s unemployment claims “on the grounds that they left their jobs for personal reasons.” Williams notes that the lack of legal protections for working mothers is just one part of a larger problem. She suggests that we need nationwide paid family leave in this country and “neighborhood-based, nationally financed child care to replace the patched-together Rube Goldberg machine that just broke.”

We have the opportunity to fix these broken systems and give help to those who need it. Let’s not lose this momentum.


Photo courtesy of Krypto (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

More Barriers Fall for Women in Publishing and the Military

It is important to notice good news for women leaders when it happens. I recently wrote about barriers for women that came down in publishing and politics. These small cracks in the glass ceiling are beginning to accumulate. Now there are new cracks to report as additional barriers fall for women in publishing and the military.

In publishing, Rachel Abrams of the New York Times writes that Hearst Magazines named Samira Nasr as the next editor of Harper’s Bazaar. Abrams notes that Nasr will be the first woman of color to hold the top job at the 153-year-old fashion publication. Abrams also points out that “Ms. Nasr’s appointment . . . comes at a moment of upheaval in the media industry. Journalists, frustrated by some of the coverage of the protests after [George] Floyd’s killing, have been emboldened to question issues of systemic racism and bias in their own institutions.” Staff at a variety of publishing institutions have been protesting discrimination against Black women and other women of color. It seems that the publishing industry is finally listening.

In the military, the first woman has earned the title of Green Beret since the Pentagon opened all combat jobs to women in 2016. The soldier’s name is being withheld because she is now a member of the secretive Special Operations community, and operational security must be maintained. Thomas Gibbons-Neff writes that “the Green Berets were one of the last assignments in the Army without any women.” The crushingly high physical standards of the Green Berets were considered unattainable for women. That barrier has been breached.

Let’s keep an eye out for good news for women, such as the selection of a woman of color as vice president on the Democratic ticket, and share it so that all the bad news currently coming out in our world does not drown out the good.


Photo by Staff Sgt. William Howard (PD)

Five Ways Women Could Benefit from the Pandemic

It seems likely that some changes in the way we work resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic will be permanent. In a previous post, I summarized research emerging about the differential impact of the pandemic on women who are parents. Family caregiving, previously expected to be kept private and not mentioned at work, has been on full display as everyone works from home during the pandemic and children crawl into parents’ laps during online meetings. In addition, research reveals an unequal distribution of work within heterosexual couples, with housework, childcare, and homeschooling responsibilities falling predominantly on women; a dramatic reduction in publications for women in academia; and a higher incidence of women reducing their work hours during the pandemic with possible long-term career consequences.

Alison Goldman, writing for The Lily, suggests that organizations can learn from the experience of this pandemic about how to create more supportive and inclusive office cultures. She cites a study by Catalyst showing that 71 percent of working people believe that Covid-19 will make a positive impact on gender equality in the workplace. Specifically, she notes, “It’s possible to incorporate inclusivity focused work-from-home revelations into office culture once things start returning to ‘normal,’ but we need to be intentional about it.”

What are the five changes that Goldman suggests that could make a positive difference in gender equality at work?

  1. Talk more about everyone’s our personal life. Instead of trying to hide the fact that they have children, as they felt pressured to do before the pandemic, working parents now have their family lives in the open as they work from home. Goldman cites Daisy Dowling, founder and chief executive of Workparent, a consulting firm focused on working parents, as saying that “making the personal professional” can build empathy and breed communication about what is most helpful for each individual on a team. In fact, Dowling notes, managers can learn to ask open-ended questions to learn more about the needs of their team members, such as “Are there any ways in which I’d be helpful to you as you think about staying at this organization for the long-term?”
  2. Reconsider the company approach to telecommuting. Many organizations have been surprised by how productive workers are when they work from home. Not all jobs can be done by telecommuting, but a surprising number can. Remote work also allows for more racial diversity in hiring when the company is not physically located where diverse populations live. Physical location no longer needs to matter for hiring. Telecommuting should become a more prevalent way of working, which can greatly benefit both working parents and organizations.
  3. Consider more flexible work options. Flexibility can mean more than just working from home. Work hours and days can also be flexible to accommodate family life. The author goes back to her suggestion of organizations and managers directly asking their employees what would be helpful to them to be most efficient. Many women I know cannot imagine their bosses ever showing this kind of interest and concern about the challenges of balancing work and family life. Unsupportive bosses are the reason many talented women leave companies.
  4. Provide management training for how to support remote workers and working parents. More than ever, managers need to know how to support today’s workforce for maximum productivity. Goldman notes that “managers are spending more time on employee care” and development. Many managers don’t have these skills.
  5. Offer support for workers outside of the office. This includes providing a budget for setting up a home office and childcare.

Parents, particularly working mothers, could benefit a great deal from these changes. Working mothers would not have to damage their careers by cutting back to part-time work, financial support for childcare could make working full-time more possible, and organizations would be able to keep talented workers who might otherwise have to leave. Working fathers would also benefit and could be more available and inclined to share housework, childcare, and homeschooling equitably without damaging their careers. These changes could be a win-win for all of us.


Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

How Gender Inequality and the Pandemic Affect Retirement for Women

A new report from the Brookings Institution notes that the status of women in retirement has not gotten much attention. The authors of this report, Grace Enda and William G. Gale, point out that significant differences exist in economic status for women in retirement compared to the status of men. They identify a range of factors that contribute to this gender inequity, including that

  • Women earn 81 percent of median men’s earnings for similar full-time work. This number obscures the larger pay gaps for women of color.
  • Lower lifetime earnings lead to lower Social Security benefits for women. Women receive benefits that are, on average, 80 percent of those men receive.
  • Women with one child earn 28 percent less on average over their careers than a woman with no children. Each additional child reduces a woman’s earnings by 3 percent.
  • The motherhood penalty—when career interruptions occur after the birth of a child—result in an average of reduced Social Security benefits of 16 percent. Each additional child increases the gap by 2 percent.
  • Caregiving for elderly parents and relatives usually falls on women more than men. People who leave the labor force early to care for an elderly relative lose an average of $142,000 in wages.
  • Progressive income taxation of family income provides a disincentive to married women to stay in the paid labor force, with long-term consequences for their retirement benefits.
  • Lower lifetime earnings can reduce the amount of wealth women can accumulate from employer-sponsored retirement plans.
  • Women tend to live longer than men, often draw down their savings over a longer period, and thus are more likely to run out of retirement savings.
  • Poverty rates for women rise with age. In every marital status group, women with children had higher poverty rates than women without children, a pattern that does not hold for men.

Enda and Gale offer suggestions for policy changes that can address the retirement gap for women. They point out that labor market practices, retirement systems, and social policy are not set up to accommodate women’s life experiences. They suggest the following policy changes that can close the gaps for women in retirement:

  • A robust federal paid family leave policy and subsidized high-quality childcare will make it more tenable for women to stay in the paid work force, save for retirement, and earn Social Security credits.
  • Under a Social Security Caregiver Credit, the government would assign a value to caregiving work that would be used in calculations of Social Security benefits. The United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Sweden provide caregiver credits for public pensions, and we could do this too.
  • Reform the tax code to either provide a second-earner credit or tax individuals rather than families to improve incentives for married women to work.
  • Strengthen the social safety net by boosting Supplemental Security benefits to close the gap between Social Security income and the poverty threshold.
  • Increase support from Medicare and Medicaid for end-of-life care. These costs for a spouse often drain the savings of widows and leave them destitute.
  • Reform divorce laws.

In addition to the structural problems described in the Brookings report resulting in gaps in retirement wealth and higher levels of poverty for older women, we now have the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbating the situation. As Mark Miller, writing for the New York Times, notes, “One of the most important factors affecting your retirement security is how long you work.” But the pandemic is making it harder for people to work longer, especially older people:

  • The combined rate of unemployment and underemployment for workers over sixty-five in May 2020 was 26 percent and are much higher for older workers who are less educated, Black, and Latino.
  • The New School for Social Research forecasts that the poverty rate in retirement among workers who are now fifty to sixty will rise to 54 percent because of the pandemic economic shock. Employers do not want to hire older workers in the pandemic.

In other words, the policy changes described above are more important going forward than they have ever been—especially for women. Let’s keep the pressure on our lawmakers to legislate these policy changes.


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Good News for Women in Publishing and Politics

In the midst of a lot of terrible news and hardship for many people in this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, some good news for women’s leadership has emerged in the publishing industry and in politics. Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth A. Harris, writing for the New York Times, report that in the publishing world, “Over the last year, deaths, retirements and executive reshuffling have made way for new, more diverse leaders . . . [that] stand to fundamentally change the industry, and the books it puts out in the world.”

The authors point out that while publishing’s workforce is more than 75 percent white and skews heavily female, men have often held the top jobs. Newly hired leaders in publishing bring different sensitivities and life experience. Here are some of the new leaders:

  • Dana Canedy was brought on as the publisher of Simon & Schuster. Canedy is the first Black person to lead a major publishing house.
  • Lisa Lucas was hired by Pantheon and Schocken Books to be its publisher. Lucas and Canedy are poised to become the two most powerful Black women in the literary world.
  • Reagan Arthur, named publisher at Knopf in January, states, “Ten years from now, I don’t think anything will look the same” in publishing.
  • Amy Einhorn is the new publisher of Henry Holt. She and Arthur, both white women, have a reputation for knowing what women want to read and that women tend to buy more books than men.

The world of politics had some historic wins on June 2, 2020, for women of color in primary and local elections across the country.

Elle Jones became the first African American and first woman elected mayor in Ferguson, Missouri, as reported by Jennifer Medina. Jones won a seat on the city council in 2015, the year after Michael Brown, a Black teenager, was shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson. With her election to the city council in 2015, she became the first Black woman elected. Her election as mayor breaks down another barrier for the people of Ferguson.

Reid J. Epstein, Jennifer Medina, and Nick Corasaniti report on primary wins for women of color. They note that in spite of the coronavirus pandemic, voter turnout surpassed 2016 levels in nearly all eight states holding primaries in early June. Iowa had the largest turnout for a June primary in the state’s history, and turnout was up 35 percent in Montana, 14 percent in New Mexico, and 12 percent in South Dakota compared with the 2016 primary. Turnout matters.

  • In New Mexico, seventeen women won Democratic primaries for the state legislature. New Mexico could have a House delegation that entirely comprises Hispanic and Native American women.
  • In Iowa, eleven women won primaries for the state house.
  • In Monroe County, Pennsylvania, Claudette Williams, the first Black woman to serve as county chair, won her primary to represent a competitive state House district.
  • In Washington, DC, Janeese Lewis George, a self-described Democratic Socialist, beat a sitting city councilman.
  • A Cuban American state legislator in Indiana won her primary. If elected, she will be the first Latina congresswoman from Indiana.
  • In Idaho, Paulette Jordan, a Native American former state representative, won her Democratic primary.

All of these primary winners must win tough races against opponents, but hope for change is looming on the horizon as voters defy attempts to suppress their votes and turn out in large numbers to elect representatives who understand their lives.


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Our National Disregard for Families

Politicians and employers like to talk about the importance of “family values,” but the pandemic has revealed that families are not really valued at all. Two recent policy decisions in New York City, described by Deb Perelman of the New York Times, offer an example of the complete lack of regard for working families by our nation’s policymakers and employers:

  • Schools will be reopened on staggered schedules to allow for social distancing in the schools, in some cases meaning that a child attends school one week out of every three.
  • Yet workers are supposed to return to their “normal” work in offices.

Perelman points out that the clear message here is “you can have a kid or a job. But you can’t have both.” In other words, Perelman states that the economy has declared working parents nonessential. She suggests that the real attitudes about families, deeply embedded in our culture, are that

  • Only one parent should be working (not the mom)
  • A working mom is selfish
  • Two working parents are bad for children
  • Offices reopening before schools, day care, and camps do is not the problem of government or employers

Allyson Waller writes of a case where a working mother was fired because her young children were making noise during business calls while she was working from home due to the pandemic. Waller cites Joan C. Williams, a law professor at the University of California’s Hastings College of Law, as saying she expects an explosion of cases involving discrimination against mothers. Waller cites research showing that in two-parent households in early April

  • About 44 percent of women said they alone provided childcare
  • 14 percent of men reported that they alone provided childcare

Because of societal attitudes and the disregard for working families by policymakers, women who are still employed run a high risk of being forced out of the workforce or into part-time jobs with long-term damage to their careers. In a previous blog post I cited the work of Patricia Cohen and Tiffany Hsu explaining that “the impact [for working mothers] could last a lifetime, reducing their earning potential and work opportunities.” Cohen and Hsu point out that reopening will compound the problem when women have to leave the workforce or move to part-time work because of a lack of childcare. They note that women could experience long-term consequences in their careers because of the following:

  • Women who drop out of the workforce to take care of children often have trouble getting back in.
  • Historically, wage losses in an economic crisis tend to be much more severe and enduring when they occur during a recession. Workers who lose jobs now are likely to have less secure employment in the future.

The authors cite Betsey Stevenson, a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, as saying, “We could have an entire generation of women” whose careers are damaged.

We need to demand that our leaders and employers do a better job of taking working families, especially working mothers, into account.


Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

The Rape Kit and the Invisible Woman Who Invented It

It has never been easy for women to report being raped to the police. In the early 1970s, I was one of many women in my community who volunteered to be rape crisis advocates for the state and local police departments. The police were supposed to notify us when a woman reported being raped, and they were not supposed to talk to the woman without one of us present. This agreement came about when feminist activists created a scandal by publicizing, as reported by Pagan Kennedy of the New York Times, that the following were common practices at the time:

  • Police, often all men, isolated a rape victim in a room and interrogated her to determine whether, in their opinion, she was lying—in other words, to revictimize and retraumatize her.
  • Police training manuals in the 1970s declared that “many rape complaints are not legitimate” and that claims of rape were often attempts to get revenge against unfaithful lovers.
  • Officers routinely asked women what they had been wearing, whether they had behaved in a provocative manner, and whether they had enjoyed the sex.
  • In cases of sexual violence within a family, it was still legal in every state in America for a husband to rape his wife and, accordingly, marital rape was not considered rape at all by law enforcement.

At about the same time that I was a rape crisis advocate, a woman I had never heard of before reading Kennedy’s excellent reporting was also focusing on the problems of sexual assault not being taken seriously. Her name was Marty Goddard and, as Kennedy reports, Goddard “began a revolution in forensics by envisioning the first standardized rape kit. . . . The kit is one of the most powerful tools ever invented to bring criminals to justice.”

But the story of Goddard’s invention, her subsequent invisibility, and the scandal of the discovery between 2009 and 2015 of a backlog of 400,000 unprocessed rape kits all over the country contain a common thread: a woman whose invention was stolen by a man who took credit for it, thereby making her and her life’s work invisible, and an invention devoted to keeping women safe that was unfunded, hidden away, and ignored by the masculine legal system. Both were eventually made invisible.

Goddard devoted her life to trying to fix a criminal justice system that did not believe women by creating a system that provided scientific proof, protected evidence, and held men accountable for assaulting women. She was advised that her invention would not be considered or implemented in her home town of Chicago unless she got the support of Chicago police sergeant Louis Vitullo, who was the head of the microscope unit in the crime lab. Goddard presented him with a prototype and a written description of the rape-kit system. He screamed at her for wasting his time and threw her out of his office—and took credit for her idea. Still committed to getting the rape kit put into practice, Goddard had to agree for him to name the kit after himself, with no mention of her as the inventor, to move implementation forward. She founded a nonprofit, raised money to produce the kits, trained hospital personnel in how to use the kit, and in 1978 delivered standardized rape kits to twenty-five hospitals in Chicago. By 1982, New York City adopted Goddard’s system because “its effectiveness was demonstrated in Chicago” as many convictions were achieved.

Goddard died in 2015 before she could learn that in 2016, the Justice Department committed $45 million to tackle the backlog of untested rape kits. In the intervening years when police were dumping the untested kits into warehouses, rapists walked free to rape again. As soon as testing of the old rape kits began, new convictions were achieved.

As with the #MeToo movement, women must keep fighting to be believed and taken seriously by law enforcement. The old attitudes are not yet gone.


Photo courtesy of Sgt. Rebecca Linder on Wikipedia Commons (PD)

The Shecession: The Long-Term Impact of the Pandemic for Working Mothers

As everyone knows by now, the number of people unemployed in the United States because of the pandemic is staggering, the highest since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Alisha Haridasani Gupta, writing for the New York Times, notes that for the first time in decades it is predominantly women of color who are the face of the unemployed. For this reason, some suggest this should be called a “shecession,” compared to the recession of 2008, which was called a “mancession” because more men were affected. In this pandemic

  • Women account for 55 percent of the 20.5 million jobs lost in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • The unemployment rate for adult women is 15 percent and 13 percent for men
  • Black women are unemployed at a higher rate of 16.4 percent, Hispanic women at a rate of 20.2 percent

Gupta explains that the main reason for the higher numbers for women is that the industries hardest hit by the pandemic are leisure, hospitality, education, childcare, and some parts of the healthcare system. These industries were staffed by a high proportion of women of color before the mass layoffs. The jobs in these sectors are also traditionally underpaid and undervalued, leaving less financial cushion to fall back on—especially for single mothers.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone, especially working mothers and, write Patricia Cohen and Tiffany Hsu, “the impact (for working mothers) could last a lifetime, reducing their earning potential and work opportunities.” With schools and day care closed, married women in heterosexual relationships carry up to 70 percent of the burden of childcare and homeschooling and are more likely to lose a job. Cohen and Hsu point out that reopening will compound the problem when women have to leave the workforce or move to part-time work because of a lack of childcare. They note that women could experience long-term consequences in their careers because

  • Women who drop out of the workforce to take care of children often have trouble getting back in
  • Historically, wage losses in an economic crisis tend to be much more severe and enduring when they occur during a recession. Workers who lose jobs now are likely to have less secure employment in the future

The authors cite Betsey Stevenson, a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, as saying, “We could have an entire generation of women” whose careers are damaged.

Cohen and Hsu note that other countries offer comprehensive support for families—like Germany, France, Canada, and Sweden. In these countries a significantly larger portion of women were in the labor force than was true in the United States before the pandemic. Economists hope that the increased pressure on families because of the pandemic will force structural and cultural changes in the United States that could benefit women in the long term, such as

  • Better childcare systems
  • More flexible work arrangements
  • A deeper appreciation of the demands of managing a household with children
  • More gender equality in the home and labor market

Let’s hope these changes can come about quickly as part of helping families through this pandemic. Women and families are suffering.


Photo by Claudia Wolff on Unsplash