Mother's Day panel examines the pandemic's disproportionate impact on working moms

"We won't have a real recovery unless we also attend to the care crisis in this country," National Women's Law Center president and CEO Fatima Goss Graves told George Stephanopoulos on "This Week"
7:30 | 05/09/21

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Transcript for Mother's Day panel examines the pandemic's disproportionate impact on working moms
and lareina Yee, inclusion officer for Mckenzie, and Diane, let me begin with you. This was a downsize surprise. How do you explain it? This was not a lot of ways to explain it. It was really disappointing, and we did see a lot of leisure and hospitality jobs come back that more than accounted for the jobs gains. We lost manufacturing as chip production idled, production plants in the vehicle sector, but it's still -- no matter how you cut it, it was not the kind of number we were looking for. We were hoping to see more than a million jobs created, and a lot of the momentum that we saw in the high frequency data just didn't show up in the data, so it could be a fluke, but the bottom line is there are a lot of hurdles for people coming back into the work force as noted already, how many women in particular have dropped out since February of 2020, just unable to participate in the labor market in ways they once did. Yes, we're paying them to do that in some cases as well if they quit their job. They don't get unemployment insurance, but I think it's important to understand how unique this situation has been, not only in terms of the recession affecting women's current earnings, but also their earnings potential and the ability for them to provide for their children, the reason developing economies focus on women when they develop is because they pay it forward with their children like no one else. These numbers were women really are staggering. Some economists are calling this the she-session. Well, absolutely, and for companies, the biggest tax has been on working mothers. Just make over the course of the pandemic, we saw that women overall, one in four, said that they were thinking about stepping back or stepping out. It's a tremendous number, but for working mothers, that number was one in three. When we asked men and women, we asked fathers and mothers, how is work from home going? Fathers said, actually, we feel very effective working. Over 70% of them said work from home was effective, and it had a positive impact on their well-being. For working mothers, that is not the case. A little over 40% of them felt this was a positive outcome. Fatima, we showed some of the criticism earlier in the program. Some saying that it's the incentives and the stimulus plan that are keeping people at home. What's your response to that? Well, my response is that care is what is keeping people at home and pushing women out of the work force, swing and what the latest job numbers are telling us is that we won't have a real recovery unless we also attend to the care crisis in this country, and it's no longer this idea that care is some sort of personal problem that people are either good at or not good at. I think what we have learned is that care is essential not just for families and individuals, but for businesses and our economic recovery. Question. If care is so essential, Diane swonk, people talking about paid family leave and child care, but one of the big questions, who should foot the bill? Taxpayers or businesses? Well, you know, it's interesting because I remember the late 1990s and having some of these discussions, and women's participation in the labor force actually peaked in the late 1990s and 2000. We've seen a decline since then, and even before we entered the pandemic, we were lagging in women's participation. Other major countries like Japan, and I think that's something that gets lost in translation is how much this has been a rising problem. The care issue we had. Back in the latter part of the 1990s, there was a lot of experimentation as the labor market tightened for women to share jobs, for child care at work. Those kinds of changes and those kinds of solutions disappeared as we moved into the 2000s, and I think we need to come at this at a wholistic way. There are funds in the $1.9 trillion package that was just passed for child care, but many facilities are closed and many of the networks people relied on with their parents during the pandemic were severed because of fear of contagion, and we need to get access to vaccines to those people who want to get back to work and want their parents to be able to help. There's such a wholistic way we have to look at this. It's not just a business problem, but a government problem. It's a societal problem, and without women in the work force, we cannot grow like we want to. It's leaving money on the table. This is just not the way that anyone thrives. It's how we all get the pie a little smaller and get a smaller share of it. And lareina, Diane hits on one of the possible answers. More flexibility in the workplace, especially for women. Well, absolutely, and companies don't need to wait for they can lean forward in terms of bringing mothers back to the work force, and making sure mothers in the work force don't leave. There are a couple of things that companies can do. The first thing is they don't have to snap back to pre-covid as they return to work. First of all, this has been a huge innovation in terms of flexibility. Who would have thought you don't have to be in the office from 9:00 to 5:00 five days a week? You could have a hybrid where you're maybe two or throw days a week, and where both mothers and fathers could actually balance their home life and the responsibilities there as well as being high performers at work. Another thing that companies can absolutely -- Go ahead. Take on diversity hiring. This is a huge opportunity to say, let's actually refashion what the work force looks like to reach our aspirations on if you are not tethered to a location, you can work from anywhere in the United States, so as we see a lot of challenges here for working mothers, I think companies can turn this around for opportunities especially for women of color who are more likely to face being taken away from all the household duties and being the breadwinners. Let's pick up on that, Fatima. This she-session, has hit women of color especially hard. That's absolutely right. What we know is that the unemployment rate, especially for black and Latina women is basically double what it was before the pandemic, and for black and Latina moms, we're talking about a rate that's about 10%, and as we think about where we are in this recovery, we need to understand that we won't have fully recovered until those groups have fully recovered, and that requires us attending to the care crisis. It also ensures that we're thinking about the jobs that people are going back into. If those jobs were paying tremendously low wages, maybe a minimum wage that hasn't been increased in over a decade, that means that these families are going to be coming back without a net, without an egg to build upon, without any foundation after this last year. So we have to be talking about the wages and the quality of those jobs as well. Very illuminating discussion. You have shed a light on the problems. Thank you very much. That is all for us this mother's day. Thank you for sharing part of your Sunday with us.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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