The Power of Two Million Women

From the newsletter:

It’s no secret that women were hit especially hard by the pandemic. While it’s difficultto get exact numbers, experts believe that over four million women left the workforce in the early months of the pandemic. Reports indicate that these women were primarily mothers who quit their jobs or took an unpaid leave from work, because of the closure of schools and childcare centers. Instead of earning a paycheck, moms helped their five-year olds focus on a Zoom screen. 

With many schools still not operating full time, including the schools in my town, two million women have not returned to work. Even if schools open fully in September — a major if — some mothers have told me that their kids need so much remediation and support after 17 months of interrupted education that they can’t return to work. Women are home in numbers not seen in decades. 

Female unemployment might lead to a $2.4 trillion hit on the nation’s general economy and put more families in poverty. Women are reporting major mental health issues related to the stress. All bad news. 

But women are resourceful. We like to find upsides to every catastrophe, because there are so many people who are dependent on our strength and good humor. Lemons into lemonade, baby. Are there any positives to be found in unpaid women working on math worksheets with six-year olds? 

Women have gotten an up-close look at their kids’ schools. And they have opinions. And they’re talking about those opinions on social media and at school board meetings. They are organizing locally and nationally to pressure cities and towns to open schools. They are demanding mental health and academic support for their kids. Because certain groups, like special education kids, were disproportionately hurt by school closures, those parents have been especially vocal and political. 

As schools slowly open, many women will continue supporting the kids at home. They might work part-time from home, but they’re going to be a permanent presence on the playgrounds and the downtown Starbucks. And, baptized in political activism, they’re going to be a permanent presence in schools and town council meetings. The issues might shift, but two million voices cannot be ignored.