To retain women, US businesses need better child care policies

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Research has shown that the pandemic has pushed women back into the workforce by half a decade. Caregiving responsibilities at home threaten women’s ability to stay and advance in the workplace, with women of color feeling the brunt of the challenge. While the US government lags on policies to help working families, businesses can and should act sooner. Employees value flexible working arrangements and companies should take their offer seriously. Create an environment that recognizes the role of parents in reducing the need for parents to have to hide their childcare difficulties at work. To be successful in keeping more women in the workforce, companies must make women a central part of the team – from the C-suite down. Include women in strategic management conversations and make changes together. The success of women, families, future generations and our global economy depends on our business leaders choosing to take on this type of bold leadership.

Plunged under the burden of childcare during the pandemic, more than 800,000 women left the workforce between August and September 2020, according to The New York Times. According to McKinsey, the pandemic has set women back half a decade. At its peak, female unemployment had increased by 2.9 percentage points higher than male unemployment. Not only does this matter for gender equality, but it will also reduce the ability of families to make up for lost income, leading to a deeper and more persistent economic recession as a whole. Leaders of all genders must not only empathize, but also mobilize and actively find ways to keep women in the workforce.

Care responsibilities at home and at work could threaten women’s ability to stay and advance in the workplace: up to 2 million women plan to leave the workforce, according to the 2020 Women in the workplace McKinsey and LeanIn.Org study. Women of color are particularly challenged and also try to maintain career progression. Women could also suffer the most from the 2021 recovery, according to McKinsey and Oxford Economics. Returning to pre-pandemic employment levels for women will take 18 months longer than for men. That’s why investing in caregiving is investing in women and in the future of our global economy.

It’s a global problem

The job and income losses linked to the pandemic have been much higher for women around the world, prompting some to call this period the “2020 session”. Around the world, women are already performing almost 2.5 times more unpaid care and domestic work as men. Many single mothers had to continue working, while some had no choice but to quit. Some have struggled to access basic necessities like water and utilities, including in the United States. Bloomberg Law. One year after the start of the pandemic, President Biden $ 1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package has moderates clashing with progressives in his own party, blocking change. The childcare system is already worsening inequalities between women and the poor. Will this continued lack of aid put the brakes on the world’s largest economy? And will it help to come too late to repair the damage already done?


The United States is clearly behind the rest of the developed world on this issue. Australia took the lead from the start and provided childcare grants to families and financial support to daycare centers. Daycare centers across Canada were subsidized by federal funds totaling US $ 475.5 million. Ontario added a US $ 112 million for PPP (paycheck protection programs) and staffing. In Japan and Korea, the government subsidized family leave. In singapore, the government compensated for childcare costs by 50%. In Austria and Germany, the rules for applying childcare benefits have been simplified. Child health examinations have been abolished in Austria. In Germany, the income statement has been simplified. And, in Ireland, the government subsidized the salaries of child care providers.

While the US government lags on policies to help working families, businesses can and should act sooner. So what can business leaders do today to prevent even more women from leaving the workforce?

  1. Engage women in the conversation. Involve your workers in designing strategic management initiatives that enable change and build resilience, including personal leadership capacities, essential professional skills and competencies, and organizational overhaul. Then take action to ensure that new policies are implemented.
  2. Review ideas and reset policies to allow for more flexible working arrangements. It’s about giving women a choice of how many days they work from home, their travel schedule, meeting expectations, email protocols, desired availability, and time off policies.
  3. Evaluate the current pace, productivity and performance expectations. Make sure the goals are realistic and that employees are measured by results.
  4. Recognize the parents. Create an environment that recognizes the role of parents, so they don’t feel pressured into hiding their childcare challenges at work.
  5. Correct the gender wage divide. Recent U.S. Census Bureau The data indicate that women earned on average only 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, and their projection shows that the parity will not be won for 30 years or more.
  6. Review your benefit system. Implement home school leave policies. Encourage employee assistance programs, bereavement support, and mental health support for increased stress.
  7. Strengthen communication. Model transparent two-way communication on child care policies and issues. Leave less to interpretation when it comes to messages, decisions and comments.
  8. Offer parental benefits. Consider offering perks such as child-friendly virtual events, mental health days, and support groups for those with children at home.
  9. Take a new look at paternity leave. In a recent multi-country interview With 130 new fathers and their partners, McKinsey has found that parental leave can strengthen partner relationships, help establish shared parenting, and help both a spouse’s career and family finances.

Explore flexible working arrangements

Employees value flexible working arrangements and companies should take their offer seriously. Job sharing is a form of flexible work arrangement where the role is played by two people. The benefits are considerable: flexible working hours, better work-life balance, increased productivity and talent retention. Sharing requires work style adaptation, expertise, the right coverage, excellent communication, information sharing and collaborative review of results. Other flexible designs include remote work, alternating locations, meal / break flexibility, compressed work weeks, and part-time work.

While many flexible roles offer similar advantages, it’s important to keep in mind that the way they’re structured can come with unfortunate drawbacks as well. Unfortunately, some “part-time” options for women turn into an attempt to bundle a full-time workload into a part-time schedule, for a lower hourly pay. And part-time work often means career opportunities pass by, childcare needs don’t match the needs of child care providers well, and women end up feeling left out of support groups. working mothers and stay-at-home mothers. Leadership needs to be more realistic about setting appropriate expectations for part-time positions across the company.

Involve women in the design of strategic management initiatives

To be successful in keeping more women in the workforce, companies must make women a central part of the team – from the C-suite down. Include women in strategic management conversations and make changes together. The success of women, families, future generations and our global economy depends on our business leaders choosing to take on this type of bold leadership.



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