Women are treading water in the return to employment. Clearly, women are on the frontlines in terms of contributions made to a greater society, but attaining political and economic empowerment is still not within their grasp. Women have not returned to pre-pandemic employment like their male counterparts. As AXIOS has reported in the “1 big thing: Jaw-dropping gender for jobs,” women lost ground in 2020, dipping to -2.5 million jobs (BLS, Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios). (see AXIOS article). Moreover, as January 2022 employment stats have been reporting, most of the job gains have gone to men this year. A robust job creation added 444K private sector jobs in leisure and professional and business services, retail trade, and in transportation and warehousing, exceeding expectations. Women, however, only gained a modest 40 percent increase. Overall, President Biden took a victory lap with a reported 6.9 million jobs in 2021.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women workers are still down 1.8 million jobs relative to February 2020. This is likely because women across the country hold down more than one job. Women were also laid-off disproportionately in low-paid occupations like the restaurant, retail, and hospitality sectors. These are sectors where higher concentrations of women of color and working single parents can be found.

Women have been sidelined. A robust economy that includes women can’t open without childcare, and in this case, mothers are the major caretakers. Major factors are school and childcare center closings, small children not yet able to get vaccinations, those at high-risk, and the disabled in their care.

A Battlefield Women Can Win On

An interesting fact: women out vote men, a consistent democratic voting block. And when it comes to the Black vote, Black women show up in increased, steady numbers. These numbers not to be taken for granted. Women are not swayed by platitudes, gimmick or innuendo. When it comes to the welfare and safety of their families, women show up at the ballot box to vote on issues. These issues are childcare, paid family leave and a living wage. Women must demand that Congress pass a bill that helps put them back to work.

The bill that died in the Senate included two historic investments in early care and education: two years universal preschool and a sliding scale limit on childcare costs for families. The Center for American Progress CAP analysis of household childcare expenditures estimates an annual child care savings of $5,000-$6,500. For overburdened working families, these savings would go a long way to meeting other expenditures like housing and the costs of food.

What Women Can Do

Stay engaged! Seek out local chapters like the League of Women Voters, MOMS RISING, KCDW and others that meet your interests. But don’t be sidelined.

Next, contact Illinois Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin. Women have the power to effect change. And paid family leave and childcare must be given our highest priority, if our nation of women and children are to claw-back to pre-pandemic work and family solvency.

Be Empowered

Lastly, be empowered! At KCDW, we’re about education. Visit the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau for information on women in the workforce.