Mothers of 2020: What We Can Do Now To Stop The Slide



By Emily Smith

I often wonder about how we – we, the people, of 2020 – are ‘living history.’
I think about how my daughter will grow up and tell colleagues younger than herself, “I was born smack in the middle of THE Pandemic of 2020.”
They’ll be polite and listen, maybe even throw an “oh wow” her way, but will they understand the enormity of it all?

Are they expected to?

It’s a question I am not alone in thinking about. The media is already making guesses as to how history will remember 2020. From The Atlantic, to Time, the world wonders along with me.

In truth, I think we will all remember this moment in time a little differently, depending on the various stages of life in which we experienced it.
Some of my colleagues have moved back into their childhood homes. Others, like myself, ditched our city lives and moved elsewhere so our kids could have more open space to play.

Some of us got sick. A lot of us focused on the silver linings. Many of us are working parents.

In any other year prior to 2020, that last statement wouldn’t cause pause, but google ‘working mom’s + ‘pandemic’ and your screen will populate the following words and phrases: “breaking point,” “suffering,” “hurting,” “not okay…”

And I am here to confirm that it is, “not okay.”

An astounding 2.2 million women left the workforce between February and October of last year. That amounts to $64.5 billion a year in lost wages and lost economic activity. This is not just significant to the economy, it is a crushing blow to the advancement of longer term gender equality in the workplace. Evidence shows that once you exit the workforce, it becomes harder to get back in. It becomes harder to advance your career, make more money, or get promoted.

The latest data shows that due to COVID-related school and childcare closures, the number of hours mothers with young children had to reduce to their work schedules are four to five times greater than the reductions arranged by dads during this time. It is assumed that this reductions has doubled the gap between the number of hours worked by women and by men. Not since 1988 have we seen so little women represented in the workforce. That is shocking.

A couple weeks back, our CEO linked to an article about this very topic on her social feed. I messaged her: “I feel like we need to do something about this.” She agreed. But what?

Well, we can start small. We can continue to focus on our company values, and apply them to our day-to-day behavior; a good reminder of this, found here. We can continue to support our colleagues, clients and partners who are working parents and caregivers. The Harvard Business Review outlined some great examples of how we can be supportive in an article late last year. We can explore story-telling opportunities that help elevate people and businesses that encourage and support women. If we all do a little bit, maybe just maybe, we can rewrite history as we are living it.