Welcome to my weekly Q&A roundup. (Scroll down to find the Q&A.)
If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions — tough questions, brave questions, you name it. The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. So each week, I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.
The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusivity.
- Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.
- Inclusivity: bringing others along in the journey.
What Is A She-covery?
With school starting and kids going back to their physical classrooms, are things looking up for women in the workforce?
Relative to what we saw during the pandemic, yes, things are looking up for women in the (paid) workforce. Relative to what we saw before the pandemic, well — we have some reason for concern.
The State Of Women In Today’s Economy
If the “she-cession” was the pandemic recession that hit women the hardest, then the “she-covery” is the recovery phase we need to recuperate those losses in gender equity. What losses am I talking about? These ones:
- 32 years of progress toward gender equity in the labor markets vanished, all in the span of 11 months.
- Pre-pandemic, achieving intersectional gender equity in the labor market would have strengthened our economy by $789 billion.
- The gender pay gap widened by five percentage points during the pandemic, erasing 22 years of progress toward pay equity.
- Pre-pandemic, closing the intersectional gender pay gap would have strengthened our economy by $512 billion.
In July, we saw 943,000 job gains. Of those 943,000 jobs, nearly 70% went to women: 649,000 jobs for women versus 294,000 jobs for men. We can call this “progress with a caveat.” Three caveats, actually.
The first caveat: Every monthly jobs report between now and the end of the year (August + September + October + November + December) needs to show job gains as strong as July’s for women to recover the 3 million net jobs they lost during the pandemic.
The second caveat: July’s job gains aren’t distributed equitably across intersectional cohorts.
- The unemployment rate for all women is 5.0%
- The unemployment rate for Black women is 7.6%
- The unemployment rate for Latinas is 6.7%
The third caveat: Women’s labor force participation rate remains blunted — it’s still below pre-pandemic levels. Of the 140,000 people who re-entered the workforce in July, only 28,000 (20%) were women.
In other words, the she-covery is not guaranteed.
Slow Or No She-covery = Massive Economic Write-off
Gender inequity leaks into nearly every facet of our economy. So when women get left behind, everyone gets left behind. A no or slow she-covery compromises our ability to unlock gender equity’s $2 trillion potential.
And new economic research now shows that wages for all workers increase by 5% for every 10% increase in women’s labor force participation. (Because everyone’s productivity increases when more women participate in the paid workforce.)
Wages for all workers increase by 5% for every 10% increase in women’s labor force participation.
It’s in our best interest to lock in a she-covery. How can we do that?
Steps To Guarantee A She-covery
1. Implement a true pay equity law
Require all companies with 100 or more employees to earn an equal pay certification by proving they pay all employees the same amount for doing work of the same value. Pay equity must be the norm — not the exception or something to be earned, negotiated over, or fought for in court.
2. Implement a national paid leave policy
The economy loses $20 billion a year due to a lack of paid leave. A national paid leave policy would recover these losses and help the 71% of US families who depend on working moms for their economic security.
3. Use advanced technology to ensure equity of opportunity in the workplace
We need to restructure the employee lifecycle so that all employees receive equitable performance evaluations, equitable rates of promotion, and equitable growth opportunities. As it stands, men receive promotions at a 21% greater rate than women. And for Black women, the promotion gap doubles.
4. Prioritize equitable skilling
Using the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act coupled with targeted skilling initiatives, we can ensure half the labor base, women, have access to the future of work. Doing so can not only spur a more inclusive recovery but also help mitigate the looming issue of bias in AI (where women make up only 32% of the global talent base).