Column

The Pandemic Isn’t Forcing Moms Out of the Workforce — Dads Are

Let’s be crystal clear about why working mothers are suffering

Jessica Valenti
GEN
Published in
3 min readJul 31, 2020

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Photo: MoMo Productions/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the Washington Post published a piece warning that the “coronavirus childcare crisis will set women back a generation,” echoing a FiveThirtyEight article from earlier in the week headlined, “How the Pandemic Could Force a Generation of Mothers Out of the Workforce.” Similarly, while the Wall Street Journal says “Women’s Careers Could Take a Long-Term Hit from Coronavirus Pandemic,” CNN predicts that “The Pandemic is Threatening to Erase Women’s Progress.”

I’m glad to see the broad concern for protecting women’s workplace advancements, but there’s a conspicuous missing piece here: dads.

It’s true that the unprecedented impact of Covid-19 is already having an outsized impact on American moms, but that’s not purely because of the virus itself — it’s because the country has seemingly given up on the idea that fathers will step up and do an equal share of parenting, even if it would save their wives’ careers.

Right now, article after article is predicting a grim rollback of women’s workplace gains: Job losses are disproportionately impacting women, experts believe women’s earnings will take a hit, and the lack of childcare — plus workplaces that can be hostile to parents — are all painting a picture of an inevitable feminist depression. In April, women’s labor force participation even shrunk to 54.7% — a rate similar to that of the 1980s.

A woman’s working hours need to be valued in the same way men’s are.

The truth, though, is that most of this is preventable. The danger to women’s workplace progress isn’t unstoppable; men simply need to make the same kind of sacrifices that women have been making since the pandemic started. (And for years before that.)

It’s not that difficult. No more expecting mom to be the default parent when a kid needs help on a classroom Zoom or a sandwich for lunch. Enough of fathers locking their office doors, or — in one memorable case — training his young children to yell out his wife’s first name as a way to get her attention. A woman’s working…

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Jessica Valenti
GEN
Writer for

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.