Shecession means the jig is up

Inequities for women in workforce in stark relief

WOMEN ENDED 2020 with 5.4 million fewer jobs than they had in February 2020, prior to the start of the pandemic. December unemployment figures showed that employers cut 140,000 jobs in December alone and all of them were held by women. The “shecession” of 2020 has thrown into stark relief the barriers that keep the gender/racial wage gap alive for working women. The data tells a story but what paints the picture is the decades-long reality for working women laid bare for all to see in the last year.

The overwhelming inequities that make upward mobility at work such an uneven climb for women – harassment, lack of childcare and paid leave, unequal expectations compared to their male co-workers – are not new. This time, however, they are hard to ignore. Working from home on Zoom means that women are not privately managing this tightrope act anymore. And for those whose jobs don’t allow for remote work, it has meant leaving the workforce altogether, possibly setting back improvements in the wage and racial gap for years.

It also means the jig is up.

Too often, we place the onus on women to fix a problem they did not create while they are also trying to navigate it. Instead of expecting individual women to lean further in, we must build a bridge over the collective chasm all women face when it comes to work, home, family, and finances.

It starts with companies’ willingness to examine their own data and practices and assess if there is a gender/racial gap problem and fix it if there is. Sharing the progress made through these efforts with colleagues – discussing what works and what doesn’t – is the fastest way to make change.

This year, as we have done three other times since 2013, the Boston Women’s Workforce Council, in partnership with the mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement, will collect and report on payroll data anonymously submitted by the 100 Percent Talent Compact Signers, 250 Greater Boston employers committed to pay equity, including State Street, Vertex, Mass General Brigham, Mass Mutual and Putnam Investments. It is through this community snapshot we begin to understand what actions must be taken to close the gender/racial wage gap.

Now is the time for even more employers to step up. The more data we have, the more robust our analysis can be, leading to real change for Boston’s working women. We enter 2021 looking for more employers to join the effort by reimagining work and leveling the playing field that for too long has kept women, and particularly women of color, behind in pay, power, and advancement. The wage gap is not a women’s issue – it is an economic and social issue that affects all of us. The pandemic has provided transparency. Let’s use it to fix once and for all the long-standing inequities for women in the workplace.

Meet the Author

Kim Borman

Executive director, Boston Women's Workforce Council
Employers, let’s work together to make 2021 the year that moves the needle on closing the gender/racial wage gap. Let’s face the facts together.

Kim Borman is executive director of the Boston Women’s Workforce Council, a public-private partnership between the mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement and the Boston business community.