One issue around gender equality was already exposed before the onset of COVID-19: the struggle for American women, especially women of color, between a job or career and taking the bulk of the responsibility in caring for a family.
“Last month’s unemployment numbers that just got released on Friday demonstrate that Black and Latino women have one and a half times the unemployment rate as the rest of the population because they are in jobs like hospitality and restaurants where they’ve lost their job,” Tina Tchen, president and CEO of TIME’S UP, told Cheddar. “But they also don’t have access to caregiving.”
With so many women disproportionately out of work because of caregiving responsibilities, Tina Tchen, president and CEO of TIME’S UP, told Cheddar that a national infrastructure plan to address the “caregiving crisis” has to be implemented.
“So we know that actually right now, women’s labor force participation in the United States is at the levels from 1980,” she noted.
“We do not have supports, public or employer-provided supports, for families to balance not just childcare, but also the needs of care for elderly parents or sick relatives or a spouse, for yourself when you’re sick.”
Tchen also noted that the U.S. is one of two countries in the entire world to not have an established national paid-leave policy.
President Joe Biden signed two executive orders aimed at boosting gender equity on a global scale, including one that creates a Gender Policy Council, a continuation of the Obama administration’s White House Council on Women and Girls that Tchen oversaw. According to the TIME’S UP CEO, she hopes the administration will “embrace issues” and work directly with women most affected.
The caregiving crisis isn’t just impacting women who hold low-paying jobs, women executives and others moving up the ranks in their companies are also finding themselves pushed out of their career tracks. Tchen said without structural policies in place and the continued exclusion of women, equity will be impossible to reach.
“In order to combat things like sexual harassment that TIME’S UP focuses on, we need women, people of color, LGBTQ, disabled workers at every level of our workplaces,” she added.
Tchen also explained that two million new jobs a year would be created to produce $220 billion of economic activity annually by investing in a caregiving infrastructure that was put forth on the campaign trail by Democrats in 2020.
“We took the Biden-Harris campaign proposal, which proposed a $77 billion annual investment in a broad range of caregiving supports like affordable childcare, paid leave, affordable in-home care services through medicare for the elderly, for protections and fair wages for caregivers as a labor force,” she said. “If you take all of those investments, if you do the economic analysis, you find it creates jobs.”
For the first time in decades, according to Tchen, private businesses appear to be coming to the realization that they have an interest in helping their employees balance caregiving and work and they don’t have to wait on legislation to take their own measures.
“I would say, finally, to employers, listen to your employees. Ask them what they need. Be in a partnership with them, and that actually is what’s going to improve your bottom line, make you more sustainable in the future, make you more globally competitive with your competitors in other countries where they do have public support for caregiving,” she added.