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Policy Brief on Women in the Workforce: Advancing Equality and Well-being

December 10, 2021


If women do not achieve their full economic potential, not only will global and local economies suffer, but also population health and well-being. Currently, many long-standing challenges to women’s equality in the workforce exist within the United States and have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. These challenges include profound wealth and earnings inequality, occupation segregation, a lack of paid leave policies, and a lack of accessible, affordable childcare. These challenges disproportionally impact women because of their multiple roles as family caregivers, teachers, and members of the workforce.

Traditionally, working mothers are more likely to work a “double shift” (i.e., a full day of work caring for children or older adult family members, or both, along with household responsibilities), thus spending 60% more time doing unpaid work than men. During the pandemic. many women persisted in the labor force as a result of working in jobs characterized by low wages, inflexible scheduling, and a lack of paid leave. This, in turn, contributed to increased stress, longer work hours, and a greater risk of burn out among mothers in the workforce. If progress for women continues at the same pace as it has since 1960, it will take until 2059 for women to reach pay equity with men.

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