Pictured: 9-year-old Priscilla Guerrero uses a laptop computer for her 4th grade online class in her room as mom Sofia Quezada assists her and 13-year-old sister Paulette Guerrero during remote learning lessons at home. | Photo by Al Seib, Los Angeles Times | Getty Images
A new president and a new Congress took office in January amid a pandemic and economic downturn that have devastated the livelihoods of millions of Americans, with particularly pronounced impacts on women. Over the last year, women in the U.S. have lost more jobs than men, taken on more caregiving responsibilities, and served as the majority of essential workers on the front lines of the crisis.
They are women like Kary Wayson
, a waitress whose job abruptly vanished when the restaurant where she worked shuttered in the spring. Anna Hamilton
, a finance professional who left her 12-year career to manage remote learning for her two young children. And Annette Brown
, a hospital janitor and single mother who is afraid of contracting COVID-19, but can’t afford to quit.
As leaders in the nation’s capital work to end the pandemic and restart the economy, women must be at the center of their efforts.
“To build back better, our government needs to work with and for women,” said Nicole Sawran, Director of Program Strategy & Investment at Pivotal Ventures. “Policies should meet women’s needs, and decisions should include their voices.”
She continued: “The Biden administration has proposed a number of ambitious plans to support women in this crisis. We hope the White House and Congress will work together to quickly turn proposals into tangible relief. Pivotal Ventures, alongside our partners, stands ready to do our part to help America emerge from the pandemic stronger and more equal.”
Pivotal Ventures believes government leaders can create a stronger, more inclusive economic recovery by focusing on three key areas.
Recognize that caregiving is infrastructure and invest in it accordingly.
Even before the pandemic, women spent far more time than men taking care of their households and families—reinforcing harmful gender norms and making it harder for women to join and advance in the workplace. Since COVID-19 began, the problem has only worsened. The result? An economy that is hemorrhaging women. Last year, 2.1 million
women left the workforce.
Caregiving is a fundamental economic issue. As a nation, we invest in roads, bridges, and airports because they improve quality of life and make the economy more productive and competitive. We should invest in caregiving for the same reasons.
We are encouraged by the commitment of President Biden and members of Congress to address the caregiving crisis as an essential part of economic recovery. Now, the White House and Congress must work together to provide immediate support to caregivers and lay the foundation for a modern caregiving system.
The following actions are vital to achieving those goals:
- The White House and Congress work to:
- Immediately reinstate and expand emergency paid leave provisions, which were left out of the relief package that Congress passed in December.
- Permanently guarantee paid leave for all by passing long overdue national paid family and medical leave legislation.
- Provide a total of at least $50 billion in emergency funding to prevent the child care industry from collapsing.
- Urgently increase funding to Medicaid to provide long-term care services and clear the 800,000-person waiting list for home and community care.
- Make child care and long-term care more accessible and affordable through refundable tax credits and the expansion of existing programs.
- Incentivize innovative policy and market-based approaches to deliver new caregiving solutions.
- The White House gives high-level attention to caregiving, such as appointing a czar to coordinate across federal agencies and elevate caregiving in policymaking.
Turbocharge economic recovery by enacting policies that make the workplace work better for women.
Women in the U.S. continue to face extensive barriers to career advancement, including bias, discrimination, and sexual harassment. These barriers are harmful to women and may slow economic recovery: A 2015 report found that closing gender gaps in the workforce could add $12 trillion
to the global economy.
While a lot needs to be done to give women an equal chance to get ahead at work, the administration and Congress can take the following steps to jumpstart progress.
Change the face of power and influence in this country by including women of diverse backgrounds at all levels of government.
- Prioritize fairness by re-instating or creating strong rules against sexual harassment and discrimination through legislation and executive orders.
- Root out pay discrimination by resuming the collection of pay data from companies and providing adequate resources for the federal agencies that oversee the effort.
- Provide robust federal funding for new and existing programs to support women’s education and careers in science and technology, including through funding for the National Science Foundation and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Representation matters. Better decisions get made when people with different perspectives and experiences have a seat at the table.
President Biden is committed to making the executive branch more inclusive and reflective of America. In fact, his Cabinet is on track to be the most diverse
in U.S. history and is projected to include a record number
of women. We hope the administration extends its commitment to gender equality by appointing women from diverse backgrounds in key roles across federal agencies.
We also commend the president for creating a White House Gender Policy Council to ensure women’s voices are represented in decision-making across government and women’s needs are considered as policies are designed and implemented. The pandemic has had broad and deep impacts on women’s lives and the council can help ensure that, whether the issue is housing or healthcare or economic recovery, women are part of the conversation.
Congress, too, has a unique opportunity to elevate women into key decision-making roles. While women still only make up 27% of members of Congress, a historic number
of women were sworn into office this year. Congressional leaders should ensure that women hold prominent roles on congressional committees and leadership roles in each caucus.
As the new administration and Congress plan a historic effort to rebuild from the pandemic, Pivotal Ventures will be working every day to support our partners and ensure that women aren’t on the sidelines of economic recovery, but at its center. It’s what our economy needs and what women deserve.