With clear certainty, there are setbacks that we have faced as a nation due to the pandemic. One of those setbacks is that approximately 2 million working mothers in the U.S. have left the workforce because of the duality of roles they have had to assume during the pandemic.
It used to be that women could balance going out of the home to go to work, knowing that their children were safely nestled at school or daycare. Over the years, flexible schedules became more normal as companies realized that people can be effective working from home. Many of them reduced work schedules and identified work and roles that could be done from a home office. It was a great way to reduce overhead while providing the flexibility parents needed to be there for their children. However, the flexible schedules didn’t take into consideration a pandemic in which the new demands of parents far exceed just flexible schedules. Parents, in general, have had to become schoolteachers, tutors, daycare providers and conduct regular business while caring for the needs of the household all at the same time – a very complex problem created in a very short period of time. As we navigate vaccination and determine when businesses can go back to some type of normalcy, the threat to women’s careers is even greater.
The unprecedented demand for time and attention to tend to educational and childcare needs has left many burnt out and unable to keep up at work. Moreover, women still traditionally conduct most of the domestic work in their households. The solution has been for women to “tap out” of their careers to stay at home so that they can deal effectively with the demands of the pandemic and its impact on family life. It’s no longer a balancing act for the sake of a career, but a balancing act for the sake of the family. What makes this an epic crisis in our nation is that the industries that employ more women than others (e.g., healthcare, hospitality, etc.) were hit hardest by the pandemic. The mass closure of childcare centers and schools meant that moms who provide the majority of childcare have in most cases felt pressured to stay at home. The backlash for business is a loss of diverse talent and the inability of women to meet their career and financial goals. They’re not just losing yearly salaries, but wage and promotable growth over time. Companies are losing top talent and the challenge becomes, what can be done to stop the bleed?
Recently, Girls Who Code published a letter submitted by 50 women CEOs and actresses to President Biden on Marshallplanformoms.com requesting the establishment of a Marshall Plan For Moms and that it be created in his first 100 days. Interesting right? A Marshall Plan For Moms recognizes that motherhood is a full-time job; it is labor! And while not all of the asks are specific, the ones that stand out are paid short-term monthly pandemic wages ($2,400), the establishment of policies for family paid leave, and affordable childcare and pay equity. The plan would be modeled after the 1948 Marshall Plan: which was an initiative to help provide financial investments in Europe to rebuild after World War II. The Marshall Plan for Moms is not about rewarding moms for simply bearing children, but for balancing the economic imbalances to women’s economic growth due to the pandemic. Until this happens, however, it is imperative for companies to recognize that a significant loss of diverse talent looms in the balance and this can have a significant impact on their businesses if more innovative and implementable ideas around flexibility for mothers aren’t made possible.
If we’ve learned anything during this pandemic, it is that innovation is the breeding ground for creating new ways of working. Companies can assess the needs of their employees to determine where more workability can be created. Perhaps it is breaking up the day into shorter soundbites, creating and/or moving employees to part-time roles, a shorter work week, moving a day from the week to the weekend, etc. Regardless of the method, the bottom line here is that women play greater and greater roles in business and as a nation, we can’t afford to roll back to the ’50s because of COVID and its various strains. What companies can do is take a stand to be even more innovative and find solutions to solve a new problem caused by a new condition, so that this critical and diverse group of people can still realize the American dream!