Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen: “One recent study estimates that increasing the female participation rate to that of men would raise our gross domestic product by 5 percent. Our workplaces and families, as well as women themselves, would benefit from continued progress. However, a number of factors appear to be holding women back, including the difficulty women currently have in trying to combine their careers with other aspects of their lives, including caregiving. In looking to solutions, we should consider improvements to work environments and policies that benefit not only women, but all workers.”
Caregivers are the fastest growing workplace identity group.
We agree, caregivers, most often women identifying workers (although this is changing), are the fastest growing workplace identity group. They make up around 73% of the workforce. So, they’re a force to be reckoned with as employers plan for the future of work.
This International Women’s Day we explore some improvements alluded to by Secretary Yellen, to work environments and policies like paid family leave, childcare, and flexible schedules which boost the financial health, productivity, and wellness of all workers, especially caregivers. They also contribute to gender equity in the workplace and are good for the economy overall.
Paid family leave a net positive for businesses.
Stanford Scholar Maya Rossin-Slater for example says there’s “quite a bit of evidence that paid family leave is beneficial for family health and well-being outcomes, in terms of infant and maternal health and overall financial stability, especially in low-income families.” Sure, but what about the costs to me as an employer?
Rossin-Slater et al in a study for the National Bureau of Economic Research found no indication that paid family leave was burdensome for businesses. However, they did find “an increase in average ratings of employee commitment and cooperation, as well as an increase in their rating of the ease of handling lengthy worker absences. These impacts appeared to be driven by employers who had at least one employee use leave.” Too often the employees who need leave the most have the least access to it, a reality the pandemic brought into stark relief.
Women and mothers of color bear brunt of pandemic job losses.
Latina and Black identifying women, especially those with young children, bore the brunt of job losses during the pandemic: “a combination of disproportionate child care responsibilities and differences in women’s pre-pandemic jobs contributed to the larger labor force impacts of the pandemic on Latina women and Black women,” according to the Minneapolis Fed.
Child care benefits are rare but successful.
Child care, especially on-site or near-site care, is one of the rarer benefits out there, but those who have tried it say great things. Bloomberg’s Sarah Green Carmichael per the Washington Post: “When I spoke to former Medtronic Chief Executive Officer Bill George last month, he mentioned that the company had put in a day care a couple of hundred yards from the office during his tenure to make drop-offs as easy and convenient as possible. He had had some reservations at first, but it worked so well that he could see it as part of a broader, post-Covid push to make offices more attractive than remote work.”
International Women’s Day began as a response to oppression and inequality at home and on the job.
International Women’s Day began as a response to oppression and inequality at home and on the job. Such injustice spurred 15,000 women to march through New York City for shorter hours, better pay, and voting rights in 1908. The next year the first National Woman’s Day was observed across the United States. The right to vote followed in 1920. More than a half century later, women secured the right to apply for credit in their own name without a male co-signer, in 1974. Financial liberation followed liberation at the ballot box.
TrustPlus is improving the financial health of women identifying clients, caregivers.
Progress is slow and we have a long way to go. Most of our clients identify as women, most of them as Black or African American or Latina/Latino/Latinx.
Many of them balance being the primary caretaker for their family with one or more jobs in a broken system of jobs, benefits, and finance designed to exclude them. It’s a challenge, not new, as the history of International Women’s Day makes clear.
Over the past two years or so 91 percent of our TrustPlus clients who identify as women arrived at their first session with a TrustPlus Personal Financial Coach with non-real-estate debt, 77 percent with credit card debt, 38 percent with debts in collections.
Nearly three in four improved their credit score and virtually all of them with collection debts reduced or eliminated them, which we hear time and again reduced their stress and improved their mental health. The research on the connections among financial health, mental health, stress, and productivity is rich.
The struggle for gender equality is the struggle for human rights. Employers can help advance justice and their bottom lines.
Today, International Women’s Day 2023, we reflect on the words of feminist, journalist, activist Gloria Steinem: “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.”
It also belongs to all employers who understand that by offering benefits that are traditionally thought of as supporting women–we do need a better conceptual lens, perhaps caregivers is it?–you can boost the financial health, productivity, and wellness of all of your workers. And that’s something worth remembering, and celebrating, everyday.