Making Caregiving Work: How leaders must support women through the COVID-19 pandemic

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On November 12, 2020, we launched our 2020 Elevating Lives Series with a program entitled “Making Caregiving Work: COVID-19 and Women’s Advancement in the Workplace.” COVID-19 has shined a spotlight on the burden placed on caregivers – most often women, especially women of color. Fueled by disappearing jobs and a lack of childcare options, the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis has triggered a nationwide “shecession,” which threatens women’s workplace advancement in the decades to come. Our panel of experts discussed the challenges women and caregivers faced prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, how they have been exacerbated in 2020, and the organizational and policy priorities which leaders must commit in order to rectify this childcare crisis.

Dr. Anouska Bhattacharyya, YW Boston’s Director of InclusionBoston, opened the event by welcoming the audience and providing context about the current childcare crisis impact women, and women of color, in particular. Dr. Christian Weller followed with a presentation on the economic burden this places on women-led households, which are less likely to have savings to help them manage the effects of the pandemic. Then, YW Boston’s President and CEO faciliated a discussion between experts on responding to the crisis. The conversation included:

  • Lauren Birchfield Kennedy, Co-Founder, Neighborhood Villages
  • Pamela D. Everhart, Professor, McCormack Graduate School, University of Massachusetts Boston
  • DrChristian Weller, SVP, Head of Regional Public Affairs and Community Relations, Fidelity Investments

Elevating Lives 2020: Delivering on Promises of Racial Justice is an event series featuring two virtual events focused on creating change, both internally and beyond the workplace. Thank you to all who made our first event possible, including our sponsors, speakers, and attendees. We were excited to see so many people who were interested in learning about and committing to solving our current childcare crisis. We invite our community to learn more by viewing a recording of our event, as well as our top takeaways, below.

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Key Takeaways from Making Caregiving Work: COVID-19 and Women’s Advancement in the Workplace

Our current childcare crisis is particularly harming women of color.

McKinsey & Company reports, as a result of COVID-19, one in three mothers may be forced to downshift their careers or leave the workplace entirely. As they have found, 76% of mothers with children under age 10 say childcare is one of their top three challenges during COVID-19, compared to 54% of fathers with young children. As Dr. Anouska Bhattacharyya discussed in her opening remarks, “Latinx women and Black women reported being more likely to be the sole person taking care of these responsibilities in their homes.” In addition, women of color, are those most likely to report that they feel uncomfortable talking about their needs in the workplace. As a result, women of color are facing undue burdens, leading to a disproportionally high number of Latinx women currently leaving the workforce.

Dr. Christian Weller expanded on Anouska’s explanation of our current crises by explaining the economic situation affecting many women. Because of unequitable pay and high costs of childcare, he explained that women have less economic security than men. As a result, “Women’s current and long-term financial security suffers more than men’s in the current recession.” Women of color, and especially women of color who are the heads of their households, are particularly impacted. In he presentation, Dr. Weller spoke about the impact on housing stability, explaining that Black, Latinx, and multi-racial women have been much more likely than White or Asian women to defer paying their rent or mortgage payments during the pandemic.

Valuing caregiving, including work done by those taking care of their families and paid workers, will benefit everyone.

Many of the panelists spoke about how our institutions in Massachusetts and in the United States do not value the work down by familial and paid caregivers. As Lauren Birchfield Kennedy spoke about, “in addition to undervaluing the work of women, women of color are hurt the most by our failure to recognize the value of [caregiving work].” She later explained that this impacts all areas of our Commonwealth. For instance, very few people are discussing the importance of childcare on education and readying young children for school. However, many of the policy makers have simple “paid lip service” without investing funds to childcare. In addition, Dr. Christian Weller spoke of the importance of funding the caregiving of older adults, whose competent care reduces their impact on the healthcare system. Lauren urged the audience to hold our policy makers accountable to financially valuing the role caregiving and supporting its infrastructure.

There are policies organizations can put in place to specifically support caregivers.

Organization leaders must step in in order to curb the large numbers of women leaving, or considering leaving, the workforce due to COVID-19. As Dr. Anouska Bhattacharyya explained, “Forcing women out of the workplace isn’t just bad for an individual organization – it is detrimental to our entire economy and to our vision of a more inclusive and equitable workforce.” Pamela D. Everhart spoke of the work that leadership at Fidelity Investments is doing to support their workers. As an example, she spoke about the support network they provide for women leaders, both in pursuing leadership opportunities and in obtaining benefits to be able to better manager work-life balance. They have a child-care subsidy that employees can take advantage of, as well as a service to help them find and interview prospective caregivers. As a result of COVID-19, they instituted five paid relief days to “deal with unexpected events from child care” or other challenges. There is no a one-size-fits-all plan for leaders looking to better support caregivers, and particularly women caregivers in the workplace. It is crucial that they listen to their employees and craft plans to help them feel supported and ready to stay in the workforce.

Resources provided by our panelists

Interested in learning more during our Elevating Lives 2020 series?

We invite you to the final event of our series, The Future of DEI: How to sustain organizational change.
During this virtual event, we’ll explore the evolution of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives and how leaders can be responsive in adapting DEI efforts for long-term sustainability. We will be joined by John Hancock President & CEO, Marianne Harrison, and McKinsey & Company partner, Sara Prince. Our panelists will share how they are holding themselves accountable and how they managed to successfully turn aspirational social justice statements into concrete plans for more equitable organizational change.

Date: Wednesday, December 2, 2020
Time: 10:30AM – 12:00PM

Learn More & Register


About YW Boston 

As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed. 

During this time, YW Boston is working to provide organizations with digital workshops and resources to help them better understand the challenges faced by their employees. As part of that work, we are helping organizations become socially connected while staying physically distant. For more information, please contact Sheera Bornstein at