Women are making history both as they triumph over extraordinary obstacles and as they go about their everyday activities with the world turning into the third year of a global pandemic and facing other challenges, like economic downturn and foreign conflict.
With this in mind, we acknowledge and celebrate Women’s History Month throughout March, International Women’s Day on March 8 and International Women’s Week, during the first full week of the month. International Women’s Day provides a useful opportunity to reinforce the fact that everyone has a role to play in forging a more gender-balanced world. This Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
When women’s labor force participation hit a 33-year low in January 2021, a new term was coined — “she-cession” — to reflect the losses in progress for gender equity. Here are three issues impacting women that the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation lifts up:
- Child care. Investing in child care means making care affordable for families, paying child care workers a living wage, bridging the gender gap in the workplace and setting children up for success in the future.
In 2019, child care workers in 41 states were not earning a living wage and the COVID-19 pandemic hurt this already vulnerable workforce. How can we expect our economy to recover when we make it impossible for parents, especially moms, to participate? Investing in child care is the ticket to ensuring decent wages and an equitable recovery.It is clear that the pandemic is only making this worse. December 2020 results from NC’s first survey on how families are navigating child care and work before and during COVID-19. The data show that before the pandemic, North Carolina families, businesses and the economy were already losing $2.4 billion annually due to insufficient affordable, high quality child care.
The child care sector certainly hasn’t been immune to widespread staffing shortages, but the pandemic has also laid bare the industry’s vital importance to the U.S. workforce, particularly in facilitating employment among women. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and The Education Trust recently released a landmark report sharing insights from Black and Latina child care providers about how their work has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and outlining ways state and local chambers of commerce can support providers, who play a crucial role in local economies and support millions of working parents.
- Paid leave. Family-friendly benefits such as paid leave increase positive outcomes and decrease negative outcomes for children and families and especially for women. Paid parental leave, in particular, has positive health benefits for moms, children and family economic security, yet income, gender and race disparities inhibit these positive outcomes.A new analysis from the Center for American Progress shows that 68% of Black mothers are the sole or primary household breadwinners, they have among the highest labor force participation rates and work disproportionately in low-paid jobs. Yet, their access to family-friendly benefits are few. Black women take unpaid leave with significant impact on their family economic mobility.
Employers who provide paid parental or other paid leave benefits not only see benefits to their businesses but contribute to the health and well-being of our future workforce and support the needs of families right now. Our Family Forward NC initiative has a number of case studies demonstrating the success of paid leave.
- Intersection of racial equity. Change happens through coordinated action across communities – one of the ways NCECF helps improve the health, education, and well-being of North Carolina’s children from birth-to-age-eight and their families is by centering racial equity in our work and communicating why it is critical to close the opportunity gap. Hence, we highlight the disparities in issues for women of color, even in the issues of child care and paid leave. We intend to be explicit on our journey to racial equity.
If this work appeals to you, please consider making a donation to North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation today.