The former Planned Parenthood president and Supermajority co-founder wants all women included on the road to economic recovery
Nearly 43 million Americans filed unemployment claims since the coronavirus pandemic began in March, with 1.9 million of those claims being filed for the week ending May 30. Though the economic impact has undoubtedly affected many Americans, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that the crisis has had a disproportionate impact on women, particularly women of color.
Women made up 55 percent of the 20.5 million job losses in April alone, and though they accounted for two-thirds of the 280,000 jobs added in May, more than 40 percent of all jobs gained were in low-wage sectors, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center. The same analysis also found that the unemployment rate hasn’t decreased for workers across the board — in fact, it actually increased slightly for black women to 16.5% in May from 16.4% in April.
This is why former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards believes it is now more important than ever to include all women on the road to economic recovery. Richards said that there should be an economic stimulus package geared towards women, as they make up nearly half of the workforce and a significant number of frontline workers.
“If we don’t seriously invest in the support that women need to be back in the economy, not only is it going to hurt women, it’s going to hurt their families and communities — it’s going to hurt the U.S. economy overall,” Richards told Wake-Up Call.
Richards is hopeful women will be able to make a comeback, but it might take some time due to systemic barriers, including gender and racial discrimination. She noted that women are oftentimes the first to lose their job and the last one to be brought back, because men tend to be considered the breadwinner of the family.
“We’re living in an antiquated economic system at a time when women are actually now —or were before the pandemic —half the workforce,” she said.
There’s also persistent wage disparities. Women working full-time, year-round are typically paid 82 cents for every dollar paid to men, and the situation is even worse for minorities. Black women earn just 63 cents working full time, year-round, for every dollar paid to white men. Latina women make 54 cents compared to a white man’s dollar for doing similar work.
Richards believes one of the first steps towards equality in the workforce is providing affordable childcare. In addition to their economic struggle, women also typically contend with having to find care for their children — and this was true even before the pandemic. Now, she said, the added strain of working from home is putting even more pressure on women to juggle multiple responsibilities.
“The whole notion of working from home is such a fantasy for the majority of women in this country because even if it’s physically possible, it’s not practical and women are burning out,” she said.
Another critical issue that needs to be addressed according to Richards is paid sick leave. Currently, there are no federal legal requirements for paid sick leave — the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that roughly 33.6 million people don’t have even have access to such an option.
Since stepping down from Planned Parenthood in 2018, Richards has made empowering women her top priority and she believes this starts with equal representation in politics. In 2019, she co-founded Supermajority, a new political action group geared towards furthering women’s political agendas for the 2020 elections. The group plans to launch an online platform that will provide a number of resources for women leading up to the election, including the ability to see whether they are registered to vote.
“I do believe that this moment has allowed women to become a voice for public policy and civic participation in a way we really need this country,” she said.
This originally appeared on Medium.