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Saujani is calling on President-elect Joe Biden to create a “task force dedicated to implementing a Marshall Plan for Moms” during his first 100 days. (For a history refresher, the original Marshall Plan, also known as the Economic Cooperation Act, passed in 1948 and provided funding, which totaled more than $12 billion, to help Western Europe rebuild after the war.) Saujani’s proposing a “means-tested $2,400 monthly payment to the women who are the bedrock of our economy and our society.”
Along with the stipend, Saujani wrote that the plan should include “long overdue” parental leave, affordable childcare and pay equity. She added that it should be implemented by a task force led by a designated “caregiving czar,” which Melinda Gates suggested recently in a Washington Post op-ed.
How the pandemic has impacted women
In the op-ed, Gates wrote that the coronavirus has “laid bare what was painfully clear to many families already: The caregiving system in the United States is broken, and it is women who are paying the price.” She continued, “Even before the pandemic began, child-care and long-term care solutions were often unaffordable and inaccessible, and women were filling the gaps at tremendous cost to their own economic potential.”
Saujani agrees, writing that since March, which is when stay-at-home orders and distance learning started in several states, “mothers have been working simultaneously as teachers and counselors and cleaners and nurses and nannies and chefs and tech support and the list goes on and on and on. Countless millions of women have been forced to cut their working hours, scale back their careers or leave the workforce entirely in order to be full-time caregivers. It’s true that not all caregivers are women, but the vast majority are.”
Jacqui Hunt, the Europe/Eurasia director of Equality Now, calls it “a very good proposal.” Hunt tells Yahoo Life: “Mothers often provide the majority of care for children and older dependents, many while holding down another job (or two or three). The pandemic has only exacerbated the disproportionate burden of reproductive care that women shoulder,” with many absorbing additional care responsibilities that leave “many women so exhausted that they have had to give up their paid labor in order just to cope.”
The toll of invisible labor
Research shows that the invisible labor of moms in general takes a toll on their mental health. A 2019 study published in the journal Sex Roles found that 90 percent of married or partnered moms feel solely responsible for their children and household, and 8 out of 10 moms reported that they were the ones responsible for dealing with their children’s teachers and school. Shouldering all of these responsibilities was associated with “strains on mothers’ personal well-being, as well as lower satisfaction with the relationship,” according to the study. The moms also reported feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.
While Saujani acknowledges that the proposal won’t solve all of the problems, she wrote in the op-ed that it would at least “begin to abate” the “gross disregard for the value of mothers’ unpaid, unseen, unappreciated labor.”
Saujani tells Yahoo Life that if you look at the legislators and leaders making policy decisions, “it's still largely men.”
“And judging from the total lack of government support provided to women and moms during the COVID-19 crisis, it’s pretty clear that valuing mothers’ labor isn’t a priority for them,” she says. “More broadly, there’s a strong cultural norm that caregiving and household work is women’s work, and we don't have a great track record in this country of valuing work done by women.”
She adds that the monthly stipend could be “transformational” if it’s done as part of a Marshall Plan for Moms that includes parental leave, affordable childcare and pay equity. “It will help get us back to economic growth and out of this recession,” Saujani notes. “We have never finished the project of fully integrating and supporting women in the labor force. Supporting moms will be good for all of us.”
‘It’s about economic growth’
Although some might argue that motherhood is a choice and therefore should not be compensated, Saujani tells Yahoo Life that “this is not about choosing to have children. It’s about economic growth. You can’t have economic growth in this country unless you bring women fully into the labor force. And you can’t do that without ensuring that moms have childcare, that they’re paid fairly, that they’re compensated for their invisible labor.”
Hunt says that motherhood and unpaid women's labor “benefits all of society and provides members of the workforce — including healthcare, frontline and public services personnel — the ability to engage in employment outside of the home.” Hunt adds: “During the pandemic, this contribution has been especially vital and should be remunerated accordingly.”
Saujani says that, if implemented, the plan would also “send a signal to our girls that our society values the contributions of women, and that their careers, dreams, and lives will not be taken for granted.”
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