Since March 11, 2020, when the WHO announced the novel coronavirus as a global pandemic, mothers have been disproportionally impacted as they’ve strived to balance work and childcare. The pandemic’s influence on gender inequalities has not only highlighted that women, who represent a larger part of the healthcare workforce, are at greater risk for contracting Covid-19, but are also experiencing abuse due to vulnerabilities and inequalities in the household at higher rates than men. Moreover, when schools and daycares closed due to stay-at-home mandates, mothers were found to experience yet another negative side-effect of the pandemic: a greater share of the household responsibility and emotional labor as compared to their male partners. Burnout and mental health issues that arise from the overwhelm and pressure of full-time work and childcare is being reported in the media, but what initiatives and policies are being offered to mitigate it?
In 2010, The Obama-Biden administration created the White House Council on Women and Girls to address the wage-gap, inequalities in education and career opportunities, inadequate healthcare coverage and family benefits including daycare and family leave, and gender violence. The current administration has dismantled it, putting nothing in its place. Under the 2020 Biden Agenda for Women, not only does Joe Biden intend to reinstate the council, but has also vowed to pass the Equal Rights Amendment and enshrine gender equality in the Constitution. Furthermore, the Biden agenda includes providing mothers with job and economic security, free, high-quality pre-kindergarten, tax credits for childcare, and investments in the quality of childcare.
In modern industrialized societies, much of the caretaking responsibility falls to the mother, displaying a trend in cultural norms that compounded in the early months of the pandemic. Unfortunately, this burden has led to a disproportionate amount of women quitting their work to deal with school and daycare closures. In fact, of all the adults who stopped working to care for children not in daycare or school, 80% of them were women. This type of care is a part of the unpaid labor force, accounting for trillions of dollars annually, and that maintains gender disparities in the workforce limiting opportunities for women. Policies that work to mend gender gaps in childcare and the workforce are needed now more than ever, not only to support parents in what is often unappreciated and unpaid work, but for their children as well, who are presently stymied by the effects of a global pandemic and an administration doing nothing to deter it.