- A labor force participation increase of 1% of U.S. women — roughly 569,100 people — would translate to an additional $72.8 billion in total real personal income for these workers and grant access to paid child care for more than 126,000 children, according to a report by The Conference Board’s Committee for Economic Development.
- To meet this increase, more than 210,000 mothers of children ages 14 and younger and 47,900 mothers with children under age five would need to enter the workforce, but access to paid child care presents a barrier to doing so, The Conference Board said.
- The report identified factors that drive use of paid child care in the U.S., including labor force participation, household income and educational attainment. As household incomes and educational attainment levels rise, so does use of paid care, according to the report.
In the months following pandemic-induced lockdowns, millions of women were forced to leave the U.S. labor force, according to a 2021 report by the National Women’s Law Center. Causes of the trend continue to be debated, but many sources, including a January report by the American Psychological Association, have pointed to the increased caregiving challenges many women faced when schools and care centers closed.
Two years later, some signs indicate that women have regained some of the ground they lost. In May, the U.S. recorded an unemployment rate of 3.4% for women ages 20 and over, a slight increase from April’s 3.2%, which matched the pre-pandemic rate recorded in January 2020. This follows previous 2021 research by Metlife and Rainmakers CSI, who found that 63% of women who left their jobs during the pandemic planned to return to the workforce.
The pandemic highlighted the challenges caregivers, including women who are parents or who care for other family members, face due to a lack of resources and time. Such realizations have spurred employers to act, with some turning to more flexible work models and others, like PepsiCo, offering returnship programs to women and others who have had to take a career pause.
But observers point to a multitude of other mechanisms employers can use to expand opportunities for women in the workplace. These include expanding recruiting networks and implementing more robust mentorship programs, especially for those entering the workforce — or a particular role — for the first time. Others have pointed to the importance of combating self-skepticism and biases that hurt womens’ careers, particularly women of color.