Although history highlights excellent strides for women, especially within the United States, collectively, there is still so much work to be done to ensure that women are provided paths towards personal, fiscal, and political independence. On that note, although the statistics in light of the global pandemic may highlight especially jarring figures, it is essential to note that the COVID-19 crisis has only unearthed and exasperates these deep-rooted inequities that already ailed our society, many along gender lines.
In 2021, the nation’s first year with a woman vice president, women working full-time still earn 82 cents for every dollar paid to men. The disparity is incredibly unsettling within our home state of Alabama. According to the Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, in Alabama, women earn 73 cents for every dollar paid to men. For women of color, the disparity is even more concerning. Due to the concentrations in various hard-hit industries, such as the service and care sector. Women of color are more likely to have been laid off or furloughed during the pandemic. These racial and gender differences are also seen through unemployment statistics, where every single job lost in December 2020 nationally were jobs previously held by women. In Alabama, of all of the unemployment claims filed in the past year, a significant number of those applications were Black women.
As stated previously, within the workplace alone, we have seen firsthand just how much of a disparate impact the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has had on women. In the past year, reflecting January 2020 through December 2020, more than 2 million women have left the labor force, the majority citing childcare commitments as the primary reason for this shift. That said, 25% of women currently still in the workforce are considering stepping back or leaving altogether for similar reasons.
This trend, where women are undervalued in an organization, is, unfortunately, has historically been augmented in the tech sector. Recent studies highlight that in this particular industry, women hold just shy of 25% of jobs, while making up more than half of the workforce overall. The turnover rate for women in tech jobs is especially high, citing an exclusive bro culture, that hinders their opportunities to thrive in the setting. Women with tech experience who have been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug may be dissuaded from pursuing this path forward when faced with the reality that women entrepreneurs receive abysmal amounts of venture capital funding in comparison to their male counterparts.
As an organization that focuses on education, we would be remiss if we do not discuss the state of women in the classroom. We know that the overwhelming majority of K-12 teachers across the country are women. Unfortunately, educators remain underpaid in the profession, especially when the stresses of the job have been exasperated in an era of virtual learning. As a result, public schools across the United States are facing an unprecedented national teacher shortage. We see firsthand that the lack of adequate funding, coupled with a mentally and emotionally draining environment, has a profound effect on the well-being of women educators, who invest so much time, energy, and care into the well-being of our children.
We know that investing in women almost always yields a high reward. For companies with women in senior management positions, the organizations can perform up to 50% greater than those lacking this gender diversity. What women contribute to the workplace, from general morale to quantitative analysis and decision-making acumen, has a significant impact on the well-being of the company’s human and fiscal capital. In other words, when we invest in women, everyone thrives.
In light of the staggering facts and figures, there is so much room for us — women and women’s advocates — to remain optimistic. Organizations like ours, as well as advocacy groups, have highlighted a commitment to serving and representing the interests of the women that make up our communities. We will always continue to uplift, support, and care for all women, regardless of where they come from or where they are going. From providing educators with truly competitive salaries to increasing the Federal minimum wage, and even regular direct payment to mothers, this is a time for progressive policy action. Commitment to women’s well-being should be discussed, researched, and prioritized every month of the year.
Although Women’s History Month 2021 has come to a close, Ed Farm’s commitment to access, equity, and parity remains a steadfast pillar of our work. This year, alone, more than half of our enrolled Pathways students — our flagship course for adult learners that focuses on Apple’s Swift programming language and employability skills — identify as women. In our Teacher Fellows (TF) program, this statistic hovers around 80%. On that note, within the TF program, nearly all women participants are women of color. Even within our organization, over 80% of our very own staff members are women. As we begin to grow and scale our impact, it is this commitment to uplifting women’s autonomy — last month and in perpetuity.
Kendall Easley, Policy Analyst: April 13, 2021