Last week I had the privilege of speaking to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors on the topic of gender equity. I joined some very impressive women leading important organizations doing terrific work: Kate Bahn, Director of Labor Market Policy and Interim Chief Economist for the Washington Center for Equitable Growth; Anne Price, President of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development; and Virginia W. Harris, President of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc.
As the representative of for-profit organizations — specifically the financial services industry — I was there to discuss how for-profit companies are (and aren’t) driving greater financial inclusion for women. While the industry has improved its diversity programs, a number of firms continue to fight gender discrimination suits. Also? Their “women’s initiatives” tend to be more about performative marketing and much lighter on the actual “building offerings for women” part. (Except for … *cough cough* … Ellevest.)
So why is this a topic of interest to the Federal Reserve? And why does it matter?
The Federal Reserve, which is the central bank in the US, has always had two jobs under federal law: hold inflation at bay, and keep unemployment low. In the last year the Fed has paid more attention to racial economic equity and labor market inclusion and opportunity — because if not addressed they can, as the Fed Chair, Jerome Powell, recently said, “hold the economy back.”
Of course, this isn’t news to us. We’ve seen this play out in real time with the She-cession. By February 2021, 2.3 million fewer women (including 606,000 fewer Black women and 618,000 fewer Latinx women) were in the US workforce than before the pandemic, due in large part to caregiving responsibilities. And we know that if we did more to support family caregivers, we could add 5.2% more jobs and an extra 5.6% in wages and salaries in 2030 than are currently projected.
US Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo also gets it. She has noted that, when you look at the numbers, “care infrastructure is not a partisan issue.” It’s why she’s using her power to convince companies and politicians that the nation must build caregiving infrastructure if the US is to remain competitive globally. Bottom line: Don’t expect to secure top talent if you exclude 50% of the workforce.
Does this mean that things may be changing for women?
Or that women’s contributions will be more fully recognized, and that we’ll finally have the support we need to balance our careers and our families? Well … maybe. It feels almost too on the nose to be writing about this in advance of Women’s Equality Day (the anniversary of the 19th Amendment), but our fingers are crossed. Believe me, our fingers are crossed.
One thing’s clear: It’s no coincidence that electing more women has coincided with the creation of the American Families Plan, and Democrats have come up with a budget that includes $726 billion for education and families, including universal pre-K and child care.
While it’s hardly the finish line, it’s at the very least a strong case to keep voting for women if we want both gender and racial wealth gaps to close. Because they're the ones who will get it done.
Here’s hoping for continued hope in the weeks ahead.
Just as men internalize the 72% of money articles for them that focus on investing and growing wealth.
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