The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Since childcare centers and schools have closed down due to Covid-19, a study by Cleo found that more than 50% of families surveyed do not have childcare, and 20% of families are considering having one parent leave the workforce to care for their children. When faced with this decision, the default choice is often to have the parent with the lower wage be the one to opt out of work, as was described in a recent investigation in The Lily. With mothers earning 70 cents for every dollar a father earns in the US, we know which parent will likely be giving their notice.
The problem with that trend is that it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy around pay inequity. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that women’s annual earnings dropped 39% after taking a year out of the workforce. So when the lower-earning mother opts out of the workforce, she’ll be earning even less once she’s able to return to work.
As long as women – and particularly working mothers – continue to disproportionately lose jobs, put themselves on the frontlines, and pay a higher labor cost or step out of work altogether to solve for a lack of caregiving solutions, the gender gap will only get worse. If these trends continue, I won’t be surprised if equal pay day for mothers falls well into the summer in 2021.