Updated: Nov 10, 2021
Only about 6% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 2% of S&P 500 CEOs are women (and currently there are no Black women at the helm of a Fortune 500 CEOs company). And those numbers are declining globally, according to the Harvard Business Review. Achieving full gender equality by 2025 could add up to $12 trillion to the global GDP, found a report by McKinsey & Co.
That simply won't happen, given that the COVID economy is causing more women to opt out of the workforce due to a lack of childcare and ongoing school closures. While the data shows that the majority of leadership remains white and male, the data also shows that the majority of caregiving duties continue to fall on the shoulders of women.
We can’t afford to go backwards on gender equality; the impact on our economy will be huge. Dual-income earners are the norm and not the exception in America, and 40% of mothers are the primary breadwinners for their household, according to the Center for American Progress. Black mothers are twice as likely as white mothers to be their family’s primary breadwinner.
Women already experience a “motherhood penalty” that contributes to the gender wage gap: Research shows that men’s earnings increased more than 6% on average when they had children, while women’s pay decreased 4% per child.
With daycares going out of business and ongoing uncertainty about whether or not schools will open across much of the country, the lack of childcare is not only setting women and families back, but is shrinking the economy. Forbes spoke to female leaders on women, the workforce and the COVID economy.
On A Motherless Workforce
“This is going to go down as a major setback for women. Women continue to be the ones that are still doing the lion's share of work at home. I have a leadership team that's full of senior women who have children at home, and it takes a huge toll. If you don't have childcare, or feel safe sending your kids to daycare or bringing in a caretaker, or if it's not affordable, women are simply going to opt out. I think we’re going to see a lot of that happen in the fall.”
~Reshma Saujani, Founder, Girls Who Code and Author of Brave Not Perfect
On The Childcare Void
“In the best of times, most childcare providers were being paid minimum wage and many without benefits at all. Then COVID happens and, because of the pandemic, programs were shut completely, cutting off that revenue. As programs are provided the opportunity to reopen, many providers find they cannot financially do so because their costs may have increased with needing to purchase safety materials or making site modifications. At the same time, they continue to see reduced enrollment because of parents' fears around exposure to COVID-19. We should expect significantly reduced capacity when it comes to the childcare sector.”
~Lauren Kennedy, Co-Founder, Neighborhood Villages
On Focusing On Retaining Women
“It will be key for employers to ensure that they continue to provide opportunities for employees to stay engaged, productive, and innovative while working from home. More specifically, it will be critical for employers to be intentional in ensuring they continue to provide career pathways for working parents amidst the increased child care pressures at home.”
~Yvonne Garcia, Chief of Staff to State Street CEO & Chief of Staff, Small Business Strong
On Bailing Out Childcare Providers, Not Just Big Business
“Delta airlines got more federal funding through the CARES Act than the entire childcare industry across the country. Not the entire airline industry, but one single airline. When we talk about financial investment [for childcare], that's what we're up against.”
On Using Your Voice
“If you're a parent right now, you should be really angry. Working mothers are suffering the most in terms of not having adequate solutions coming from policymakers. This is the moment to scream loud, to mobilize, to protest, to do a petition, and to really ask for what you need. I don't think we're in the middle of a pause; this is life for a while. As women, we shouldn't be grinning and bearing it right now; we should be using this moment to speak loud to change structures and models.”
On The Empathy Advantage
“I also think it's a great opportunity for women in leadership, who typically score high on empathy. When you look at differentiating factors of companies out there and how they've responded to COVID, there is a high correlation of success with leading with empathy.”