The pandemic has caused millions of men and women to lose their jobs, but a large subset of the population not returning to the American workforce are women. In a tweet shared in September, Madam Vice President Kamala Harris stated that the lack of affordable and quality childcare in our nation inhibits women from returning to work. And the clap back on Twitter was real. Responses to MVP Harris's tweet varied with multiple opinions from both men and women.
Twitter followers pleaded with Madam Vice President Harris to introduce maternity leave or to provide women with the support they need to make their own decisions, whether that is choosing to be a stay-at-home mother or to work. Some suggested for our government to model our healthcare system after our foreign counterparts which allows one parent to stay at home and one parent to work.
Other responses stated the solution is to invest in livable wages for the childcare workforce or implement a mask mandate in schools so parents can feel safe sending their children to school. In the end, Twitter agreed that the factors that contribute to women not returning to the workforce are not entirely due to our poor childcare system alone.
How Childcare Affects Working Black Mothers
Yahoo News reports before the pandemic, Black mothers struggled to access affordable childcare and had lower workplace flexibility. The cost of childcare has increased pressure on Black mothers who were juggling work and childcare responsibilities.
According to the National Women's Law Center, Black women over the age of 20 have faced the largest drop in employment since the start of the pandemic and have an unemployment rate of 7.6% as of July 2021. Black women also experienced more job losses since July 2021, while women overall gained jobs.
According to CNBC, about 3 million women have left the workforce since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. And in September, 300,000 women left the workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report. News outlets report that getting women back into the workforce is a key factor in sustaining the U.S. economy. The industries that suffered the most job losses are state and local government, and private education. Combined, this is a total of 676,000 jobs lost before the pandemic.
Not only is childcare expensive, but childcare industries are also suffering a shortage of workers as many are taking jobs with higher pay. U.S. News states the childcare business has operated in a broken market. Low wages for workers and high costs for consumers. Coupled with the pandemic, the lack of affordable childcare limits jobs people can accept and harder for many to climb the corporate ladder.
Since the pandemic, 9% of licensed childcare programs have permanently closed. Between December 2019 and March 2021, roughly 16,000 centers and in-home daycares in 37 states no longer exist. With that said, many women are opting to stay home with their children and accept lower-paying wages rather than spend their entire paycheck on increased daycare tuition.
The Great Resignation
Many women, regardless of color and age are carving their own path. It's not just about the lack of childcare, it's about the quality of life for all women. Single, married, kids, or no kids. We straight up told Uncle Sam, "NO. I am not doing this anymore." And honestly, America needs to catch up to our neighboring countries in achieving a desired work-life balance.
Even though remote work is readily available, the way our workforce is structured and systemized just ain't it. We are still pouring the majority of our time into a job title and not truly living.
In an article by CBS News, the number of job transitions for women has surged to 54% in 2021 compared to a year ago. The pandemic allowed many of us to reassess not just our careers, but our happiness and well-being. We took a moment to sit with the fact that we were burnt out. With infinite time on our hands, we had to realize what is important to us. We had to ask ourselves if our current jobs and salaries are worth the sacrifice. And for many women, the most important thing to us is freedom, time, and flexibility.
Women have begun to bet on themselves and take risks. And why wouldn't we take the risk? Women are resilient. We tend to always land on our feet. It's a movement, not a crisis. We are living authentically, flourishing in our purpose, thriving in our element, and securing the bag. Since the pandemic, women have quit their corporate jobs to pursue their true passion or entrepreneurship.
According to a study by Northwestern Mutual and OnePoll, 10% of Americans have quit their job to pursue their dreams. The study also revealed 50% of women are willing to explore making a bold move like this compared to men at 44%.
Women have fought so hard throughout history for equal rights, status, and pay. Now, there is a call to action to use this newfound power to fix something we didn't break or mismanage? It's not the responsibility of a specific gender, women, to fix this economy. The solution starts with realizing how much our society has changed as a whole, the direction women are moving in, and building a structure and/or system to accommodate those changes. And the reality is, we are moving far away from traditional jobs or careers more and more. I will say the solution is complex and it always will be. When it comes to policy and programs, it's difficult to know where to start without adversely affecting another group of people, budget, economy, and/or industry.
While the majority of people leaving the U.S. workforce are women, it is not without cause. I know because I was one of them. As we entered the pandemic and we navigated a mandated quarantine, I too was faced with the decision of whether or not I was going to reenter the workforce. Once you have experienced the level of freedom and flexibility that most people dream of, it's a hard thing to walk away from let alone give up. You'll do almost anything to protect this level of peace. Once you realize your full potential and that you have the power to create the life you want to live, the possibilities are endless. I mean, we have women moving overseas and converting vans into living spaces now.
For me, the writing was on the wall. I decided I wanted to choose how I show up in the workforce. It was my choice to make regardless of tradition, conditional beliefs, cultural norms, and social standards. I refused to blindly continue to buy into companies that were solely concerned with my performance or my level of profitability. And like many of my sisters, I chose myself. I always will. Now here I am, a published writer, an independent consultant, and a small business owner.
I have to say, what a time to be alive.
And as we begin to close out 2021 and prepare to enter 2022, there is no better time to be a woman.
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