On May 6, Nicole Riehl, President and CEO of Executives Partnering to Invest in Children (EPIC), joined Kristen Blessman, President and CEO of the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and Kristin Strohm, President and CEO of Common Sense Institute, to discuss the impacts of the ‘She-Cession’ in Colorado and how to get working moms back to work. Saja Hindi, reporter for the Denver Post, was the emcee and moderated the panel.
The group focused on the most recent workforce data, discussed why Colorado moms are lagging behind when compared against other states, and explored solutions for businesses to support working women. See a recap from each panelist below.
To kick things off, Strohm shared a variety of data points, including the startling statistic that women accounted for 30% of the job loss in the Great Recession while women account for 55% of the job loss due to COVID-19. In Colorado, COVID-19 has erased generations of progress as the state’s numbers are now comparable to women’s workforce participation rates in the 1980s.
If Colorado women’s workforce participation rates remained at the same level as January 2020, there would be approximately 103,500 more women in the Colorado labor force today. The most significant declines have impacted women of color and moms of younger children the most. This data is a siren call to Colorado policy makers and business leaders. Colorado must find a way to get women back to work if the state wants to return to pre-pandemic levels of GDP impact and growth. If Colorado does not come up with bold policy solutions, it will hinder the state’s economy for years to come. Dive into Common Sense Institute and EPIC’s work data on the She-Cession report here.
As a representative for early childhood advocacy and investment within the private sector, Riehl addressed the increased need for family-friendly work environments and the continued lack of access to affordable, quality child care in Colorado leading up to and during the ‘She-Cession’. A 2020 McKinsey study revealed that Mothers are 1.5 times more likely than fathers to be spending an extra three or more hours a day on housework and child care—equivalent to 20 hours a week, or half a full-time job. Having to adapt to a remote, hybrid, or in-person learning schedule placed mothers at a significant disadvantage. Many mothers found continuing to work unattainable. For mothers of young children, the financial cost of child care was no longer feasible with reduced hours, the loss of an income in the household, and child care program closures.
To get women back to work, it is vital for businesses, large and small, to make changes to their policies. Companies should ensure policies are developed to support flexibility for employees who have caregiving needs and that the challenges of working parents are normalized and widely accepted in the company culture. More companies are also making financial investments into supporting benefits like child care stipends or on-site care, which are increasingly being seen as a competitive edge in attracting talent.
In addition, the child care industry failed the financial “stress test” created by the pandemic and approximately 10% of child care programs closed their doors over the last year. The cost of operating child care has significantly increased year-over-year, but there is hope for the industry with increased investments in early care and education along with other solutions EPIC is working on. Read more about the She-Cession’s impact on working moms and child care solutions in Colorado here.
Blessman dove into reasonings behind women leaving the workforce, including the tendency for women to leave just as they begin to reach the higher levels of leadership roles, also termed “the leaky pipeline”. Women often leave the workforce or start their own business before reaching executive C-suite roles because they feel they cannot keep up with the extreme demands placed on their time. Unfortunately, many female Chamber members also left the workforce amid the pandemic due to a combination of three things:
- Corporate culture and unconscious bias
- Lack of mentorship
Blessman shared that when women leave the workforce, they are often replaced by men. On top of the mental health stressors brought on by the pandemic, mothers across Colorado are tapping out due to long hours and feeling obligated to be the primary caregiver. Corporate culture and policies need to be vetted for bias that can systematically discourage women from moving up within the ranks, and employers will benefit from improved communications that are transparent and the opportunity for women to work with mentors who can support their career pathways into the highest levels of leadership. Getting women, and especially moms, back to work will bring economic recovery to Colorado.
Watch a recording of the She-Cession webinar here.