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Why We’re Optimistic About the Future for Women
There’s a big reason for hope in a season of bad news.
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I’m not going back.
How many times have you heard this from the women in your circle? I bet it’s more than a few.
Maybe she’s not going back to a hellish commute and a dreary cubicle when she could work from the comfort of her own home. Maybe she’s not going back to a full-time job, because she can’t handle the mental load of parenting and working 40+ hours a week. Maybe she’s not going back to a role where she was stagnating in middle management, her talents unappreciated by her company’s clueless leadership. Maybe she’s not going back to a marriage where she handled the bulk of chores and childcare, without so much as a thank you for her efforts. Maybe she’s not going back to weekends packed with so many kids’ soccer games she didn’t have a moment to rest. Maybe she’s channeling Peggy from Mad Men, and waltzing out of a bad job and into a new one where she’s compensated fairly.
Women aren’t settling for relationships and roles anymore where our enormous efforts go unrecognized, whether it’s at home or in the workplace. "It's not the Great Resignation, it's the Great Awakening," says Mita Mallick, Head of Inclusion, Equity and Impact at Carta. "For those mothers who are in the workforce or are re-entering, they now have more clarity on what they will and won't tolerate in workplaces. That means expansive benefits that support working families. That means flexible working options. And finally that means challenging and erasing the motherhood penalty that so many of us have faced. We have been surviving in a system that wasn't built for us. Enough is enough."
That, more than anything, gives me hope as we head into Women’s History Month. I wanted to pack this newsletter with facts and figures that prove women are making progress despite a pandemic that set us back, but the hard truth is that the data is still pretty dire—and our employers and elected leaders simply aren’t doing enough to help. So, instead, I asked some of the most inspiring women’s advocates, like Mita, what’s giving them hope for the future.
The answer, again and again, is us. We are giving each other hope. And our steely determination to get what we deserve isn’t going unnoticed by employers. (Well, savvy ones, at least.) Many of the women I talked to said there’s been a sea change in their company culture when it comes to working parenthood—that it’s no longer taboo to talk about your life outside of work and to admit when it conflicts with your job.
Our refusal to settle goes beyond the home and work spheres. We’re resolved to change policy, too. “I’m encouraged that maybe—post-pandemic—some women will see the struggles they’ve thought of as individual challenges as systemic failings,” says Vicki Shabo, senior fellow for paid leave policy and strategy at New America. “The outrage when the president announced a Build Back Better framework without paid leave was exciting and validating as someone who’s worked on this issue for more than a decade.”
But the most hopeful sign of all? We’re passing this ethos down to our daughters, who certainly won’t stand for anything but full respect and recognition.
“I’m interviewing summer intern candidates (rising high school seniors), and oh my god… menstrual equity, a thesis on misogyny in The Exorcist, an anti-cat-calling initiative!” Said Lauren Smith Brody, author of The Fifth Trimester, in an Instagram story post. “Rest assured, friends, this next generation is already on the case for change, ready to inherit and improve working parenthood.”
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The women’s U.S. Soccer team scored a $24 million settlement and a win for equal pay. After six years of court battles, the U.S. soccer federation finally agreed to give the Women’s National Team $24 million, most of it back pay for years of unequal compensation between the men’s and women’s teams. But the biggest win is the terms of the settlement: U.S. Soccer agreed to equalize pay for all men’s and women’s players in the years to come.
HATE TO SEE IT
Child poverty increased sharply after the Child Tax Credit expired. During the pandemic, U.S. lawmakers temporarily expanded the child tax credit, giving families monthly payments of $250 or $300 per child. But the credit expired in December, and a new study by the Columbia University Center on Poverty and Social Policy proves the results are dire: There were 3.7 million more children in poverty in January, as child poverty increased from 12.1 percent in December 2021 to 17 percent in January 2022.
There’s a formula shortage in the U.S. Parents and hospitals are struggling to get infant formula as supply-chain issues cause shortages throughout the country, particularly for formulas that feed babies with gastrointestinal problems or milk allergies.
Parents are still struggling to find childcare. Half of working parents of children younger than 12 at home say it has been at least somewhat difficult to handle child care responsibilities in recent weeks, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. The results are roughly similar to a poll taken in October 2020, proving that parents are still challenged by childcare, even if schools and centers are ostensibly open.
This newsletter was written by Audrey Goodson Kingo, Editor in Chief at Mother Honestly. Please send feedback, ideas and suggestions (or just say hello!) to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you found this newsletter helpful, please share with a friend!