Prior to the pandemic, women made up more than half of the workforce and were on track to reach gender parity. However, today women are leaving the U.S. workforce in record numbers – with more than 5.5 million women leaving since the pandemic began. In fact, female unemployment hit double digits this past year for the first time since 1948, and women’s participation in the labor force is the lowest it’s been since 1988. That rolls back progress and threatens to undo over 30 years of advancement toward gender parity.
The Women’s Fund of Rhode Island (WFRI) points out that women have received the brunt of the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulted in a “shecession,” which has led to impacts on food and housing security, historic job losses, and childcare shortages. Women carry the majority of the pandemic’s economic burden by far and have lost ground on closing the gender wage and wealth gaps. The Global Gender Gap Report 2020 states that parity will not occur for nearly 100 years.
What’s important to note is that we will not suffer the fallout from this “shecession” alone, and we will not regain our momentum alone either. It’s time to call on our male allies to work with us for gender parity.
Men are a valuable and necessary resource for helping women re-enter the workforce and providing opportunities for advancing to leadership. While a number of men become – or consider themselves to be – allies because they noticed gender inequity in their own environment and saw standing with women as the “right thing to do,” many others may be willing to help or change for the better, but are unsure of where to start.
To help men engage, WFRI is launching a 100 Men for Gender Equity campaign on Wednesday, June 9, and through a virtual launch event will provide thought-provoking discussions and suggested actions for men to take to effectively stand with women. Featuring Ted Bunch, co-founder of A Call to Men, the event will engage 100 (or more) men, to raise $100 each to work towards gender equity.
WFRI also assembled a toolkit for women to share with the men in their lives, engaging them to be mindful and look for ways to share responsibilities daily at home and at work, how to lead by example, how to support legislative change, and more.
Beyond events and awareness campaigns, it’s important to remember that while women are often reluctant to ask men to become allies, it’s important to do so because men can help us create significant gains. It’s easy. As noted in Dr. Nancy’s latest book, In This Together, “Catalyst reported that men’s support for gender equality can be engaged by appealing to their sense of fairness. In addition, shifting away from a win-or-lose mentality to recognizing that everyone benefits from gender equality can lead men to become greater advocates who endorse our efforts to change unfair practices.” Especially right now.
It’s critical for women and our male allies to come together like never before and find solutions that will work now and after this crisis passes. We are in this together, which means when some of us suffer, all of us suffer, and likewise when more of us benefit, we all benefit. Helping male allies see how everyone benefits (even men) from gender parity and giving them specific actions, they can take will turn the tide on the shecession and push women back into the advancement toward parity. Men’s real, daily commitment to recreating the workplace in a way that welcomes and supports a more balanced, diverse management and workforce will liberate our concerns about gender parity and focus all of our energies to creating a sustainable and successful world.