Lean In now Laid Off
Sheryl Sandberg released her NYTimes bestseller Lean In, Women, Work and the Will to Lead and set the corporate world on a path toward greater gender equity. Ms. Sandberg’s writing encouraged women to break the gender stereotype and employers to compensate men and women equally. Lean In, you can have it all, work, family, personal fulfillment. Hardworking, aspiring women leaders joined in the movement. One of my favorite quotes is:“In 1970, women were paid 59 cents for every man’s dollar earned. In 2010, that number was 77 cents, prompting activist Marlo Thomas to joke, “A dozen eggs have gone up 10 times that amount.”
Women suffered fifty-five percent of the job losses in 2020. Keep in mind this is a combination of terminations and workers are choosing to not return to the workforce. Many other women have opted out of the new work-at-home employment. Over one million women-owned small businesses closed in 2020. This count most likely is an undercount of the actual number of storefronts, services, and sole proprietors who have dropped out due to the failing economy.
The rapid shift of our daily work and school schedules to life at home is impacting women on many levels. When schools shut down, due to an outbreak, the classroom shifts to the kitchen table. When the nursing home is no longer safe, the spare room becomes grandpa’s new home. When unemployment benefits run out, a realignment of food and shelter takes priority over building a new business or schooling for a new career. Inequality has many faces.
Gender and race are the two inequities most often studied. Women are losing ground climbing the corporate ladder. In fact, McKinsey and Company’s research shows one-third of women ascending to the Director, and C Suites are choosing to drop since the pandemic began The loss of role models and advocates to advance the next generation of female leaders is our canary in the coal mine. McKinsey’s study highlights the lack of new work norms with our new home office design.
Many female employees feel that work is not 24/7. That the risk of not being constantly present will limit their future advancement using an unwritten rule book that hints at discrimination. Racial inequity is even more pronounced in corporate America. Minority women and single mothers carrying all the household responsibilities may not fit the company first mentality.
Paid Leave for All Movement
Most nations provide a paid leave benefit but not the USA. Did you know that only 21% of US workers have access to paid family leave? The Family and Medical Leave provisions (FMLA) apply to only the nation’s largest employers. Additionally, only 40% of American workers have short-term disability insurance. Today’s pandemic has left many workers with diminished abilities and a long slow recovery therefore returning to full-time employment is not realistic. Moreover, the contagious nature of this virus means newly infectious people are working and spreading illness thinking, it’s nothing to worry about, I need the money.
The Paid Leave for All movement is financed by the Hopewell Foundation. “We know families and the nation are strongest when we have time to heal from illness or injury, to welcome a new child, to help a loved one recover or ease their passing. Yet the U.S. is one of the only countries in the world without a national paid leave policy, which meant that when the pandemic hit, we were unprepared. We all have a stake in ensuring people do not spread illness when they are sick and recovering, that no one ever must choose between their family and their paycheck. We need a sustainable paid leave policy in place so that families and businesses are never scrambling for piecemeal solutions when illness strikes, a serious caregiving need arises, or a new child is born or adopted.”