For the first time in history, the U.S. is experiencing a “shecession” — an economic downturn in which job and income losses are having a greater impact on women than men. What is glaringly, painfully, apparent is that poor access to affordable, quality child care is at the heart of the issue — both in terms of how disproportionately hard women have already been hit by the economic downturn and how quickly, or even if, women will be able to fully recover.
Yet, the child care crisis continues to be treated as a sideline issue by politicians, revealing the continued lack of recognition or value that our society and systems of economic and political power still place on domestic, caregiving, schooling and child rearing labor traditionally relegated to unpaid “women’s work,” which today still falls disproportionately to mothers, even in households where both parents work.
“Working families are facing impossible decisions about how to ensure their children are safely cared for when not in school while also keeping their jobs. Many working families that are living paycheck to paycheck do not even have the luxury of choices — they simply cannot afford to miss any work or cutback on hours if they want to keep a roof over their head, food on the table and bills paid.”—Michelle Zych, Director, Women’s Fund of Omaha
While there is no single solution that will work for all parents or all communities, the Women’s Fund of Omaha is taking a public policy advocacy approach to create a “patchwork of options for families to consider what works best for their situation.” These include, making paid leave more accessible by expanding paid family leave provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, grants to expand child care capacity, expanding eligibility for child care assistance under Title XX, adjusting the rules for unemployment insurance to add eligibility for those who have to leave the workforce due to lack of child care availability and adjusting rules for child care licensing to facilitate necessary and immediate capacity expansion.
The Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona is taking more of a “lead by example,” employer-side approach to addressing this challenge — prioritizing family-friendly, flexible workplace policies within their own organization and centering the need to accommodate staff child care considerations in the decision-making process that informed the foundation’s recently announced decision to close its physical office through July 2021, opting to move the organization over to an entirely remote working model, at least through the next year.
“It was serendipitous that our lease was up last month, and seeing that 50% of our staff have school-age children (including myself), it would have been ludicrous to expect my staff to come into the office 9-5, while still managing home life, and now our children’s education. Our hope is that other organizations and businesses, specifically those that are women-led, follow our lead.”—Dr. Amalia Luxardo, CEO, Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona
This sentiment seems to be one shared by a number of women’s funds, as discussions around the potential role of the business community in finding solutions to the child care crisis appears to be an area of particular interest within the network, sparking conversations around how women’s philanthropy might support employers and businesses in their efforts to help employees navigate these challenges. Promoting employer flexibility will likely be one critical component in finding solutions to the current child care crisis — and, by extension, the larger COVID-related economic crisis.
I’ve been inspired to see so many of our members come together, to collaborate and build upon the collective power, ingenuity and expertise of the Women’s Funding Network to mobilize women’s funds and foundations nationwide to address these issues head on. Together, we’re leading the charge to find solutions and to scale regional successes and effective local strategies to mobilize women’s funders and the wider philanthropy sector for maximum nationwide impact.
Yours for equity and justice,
Women’s Funding Network
President & CEO