The pandemic is a wake-up call to the ongoing inequalities facing working mothers, too many of whom have to choose between careers and their role as primary caregivers at home. .
Now, as society recovers from COVID-19, will businesses seize the opportunity to address structural inequalities in the workplace caused by the pandemic?
In Fortune’s The Most Powerful Women Summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif. This week, Synchrony CTO Carol Juel and Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani discussed the experience of the past two years and how it speaks to the importance of ending the fight for women’s equal rights.
There are a million women who were employed before the pandemic but have left the workforce in the past two years, and “one of the key components of that is childcare,” Juel said.
Reshma Saujani, Founder of Girls Who Code, says childcare is just the beginning of supporting mothers in the workplace. Saujani described how women are told that “Girls are on top” for too long and it’s not sustainable.
Instead of telling women to practice power poses or be a little more ambitious, we need to “end this fight for equality once and for all by fixing the structure,” says Saujani. Here are some key things Saujani and Juel say business leaders can do to continue fighting for equality:
Recognizing childcare as a business matter
Both Juel and Saujani agree that the first step is to tackle childcare and make it affordable.
Synchrony, a consumer financial services company, realized how much childcare had affected its employees during the pandemic as most childcare centers closed and mothers Working mothers cannot find emergency backup child care. They have taken steps to address this by creating benefits for their employees, allowing mothers to hire an in-home childcare worker so they can focus on their job roles. me.
“Childcare is a business thing,” says Juel.
Implement gender-neutral parental leave policies
After giving birth, Saujani simultaneously ran Girls Who Code while virtually homeschooling her preschooler, in addition to trying to save up for her nonprofit. “It almost broke me.”
Saujani said she learned the hard way that ‘having it all’ is a flexible way of saying it all, and it’s not sustainable.
“90% of women are basically back to work 10 days after giving birth,” says Saujani. Women who go back to work too quickly are losing valuable time bonding with their new baby, which can affect their mental health in the long run.
End of motherhood punishment
“The gender pay gap is not the gender pay gap, it’s the motherhood gap,” says Saujani. On average, fathers are paid 58 cents more per dollar than mothers. It is not only an injustice to the work that women perform on a daily basis, but it is a situation that causes women to maintain a lower status in senior roles.
The pay gap makes the mother, not the father, more economically sound. Saujani said industries like tech are hit even harder by motherhood punishment – 50% of women leave their jobs in tech when they turn 35 because they become parents.
According to Saujani, that has to do with childcare. If we can make childcare more accessible and affordable, we can also address other problems that lead to women switching careers or leaving the workforce altogether.
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