January 16, 2021
Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The 117th Congress is sworn in with Nancy Pelosi at the...

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The 117th Congress is sworn in with Nancy Pelosi at the top, Argentina legalizes abortion, and we ask: do working women stand a chance of recovery in 2021? Go get your Monday.

– New year’s resolutions. Before the Broadsheet broke for our holiday vacation, we had a big question: what lies ahead for working women in 2021?

2020 was a year that devastated the female workforce like no other, with 2.2 million women forced out of their jobs in the U.S. due to uneven economic crises and unprecedented caregiving burdens.

Well, now 2021 has arrived. Do women stand a chance of recovering?

To answer that question, we turned to six experts to offer their predictions. Each had a unique outlook—some more optimistic than others—from their particular perch working in this space.

Melinda Gates, who has become a vocal advocate for the need to solve the United States’ caregiving crisis, called for policy to address these urgent issues, with a pair of predictions dependent on which way lawmakers go: “If we ignore these needs, it’ll deepen the recession and slow recovery for everyone. If we recognize that caregiving is infrastructure and invest in it accordingly, women may just save our economy.”

C. Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, warns that economic recovery for women won’t be swift in 2021.

Jasmine Tucker, director of research for the National Women’s Law Center, spends her days crunching the nation’s labor force numbers. With that vantage point, Tucker offers an even tougher reality check: “There are two people looking for work for every job opening—so employers are going to be choosy about who they’re hiring. I hate to think that this is true, but we’ve seen it over and over: Employers are racist and sexist and ageist. They’re not going to hire the women of color, or they’re going to hire them for the lower-paying job. Older women might not come back to the labor force at all.”

Rachel Thomas, cofounder and CEO of LeanIn.org, has figured out one way remote work could hurt women: by “creating two classes of employees.” “Those that don’t have a lot of caregiving responsibilities and will get lots of face time with managers, and those who do have caregiving responsibilities—predominantly women—who may end up paying for working remotely with fewer opportunities, less face time with senior leaders, and fewer chances to advance,” she warns.

Read more experts’ outlooks on 2021 here. These predictions may not be rosy, but they’re critical to keep in mind as companies and policymakers determine the next phase of economic recovery—and whether or not we leave women behind this year.

Emma Hinchliffe
[email protected]

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