While half of Americans have received the Covid-19 vaccine and businesses continue to reopen, the pandemic has left a devastating impact on the caregiving economy, where the industry lost one-third of its workforce.
According to AARP, more than 1 in 5 Americans now identify as caregivers, either providing for an adult or child with special needs at some point in the last 12 months. The worsening caregiver crisis has affected business productivity, turnover and the ability for employees – especially women – to stay in the promotion pipeline.
In an effort to address this, TIME’S UP CEO Tina Tchen recently spoke with Know Your Value contributors Daniela Pierre-Bravo and Cat Rakowski about the advocacy group’s newest initiative, the Care Economy Business Council.
Launched in May, the growing coalition of more than 300 Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, entrepreneurs, and investors has been working to reimagine the caregiving infrastructure – and make sure women are not held back in the workforce – through public policy solutions that center caregiving and advance best practices.
“We’re at a critical inflection point … the pandemic really devastated an infrastructure that wasn’t there in the first place,” Tchen told Pierre-Bravo and Rakowski. “Now we see a situation where over 2 million women have left the workforce permanently in the last year-and-a-half and we have a moment to address it.”
The Council includes members like Care.com, JPMorgan Chase, Spotify, Pixar, Uber and Verizon, all of which came together with TIME'S UP to create the Leaders' Guide to Creating a Culture of Care, offering concrete steps business leaders can take to immediately to support their caregiver employees.
“This is critical human infrastructure that we need,” Tchen said of building the caregiving sector. “Otherwise, women are going to get left behind as the economy moves forward.”
Those top-down leadership solutions include: learning what to measure; gathering feedback from employees on an ongoing basis; building a culture of care through policies and practices; setting up systems of accountability and setting the tone for other companies and sharing any progress.
When asked how the Council will work in tandem with the Biden Administration’s family and jobs plans, Tchen noted that while they are a huge step in the right direction, it’s not just the government’s responsibility to drive solutions. “We need employers to step up and address it too,” she said. “For too long this was something workers had to figure out by themselves… employers now see that’s not the case.”
Indeed, businesses are reeling from the effects of millions of women leaving the workforce – declining retention, high turnover and productivity loss. “I have never seen the interest from business leaders that I see right now,” Tchen said. “They want to want to be a part of this. They want to know how to do it.”
The TIME’S UP chief recommended a more systemic approach by building up the caregiving sector as a mixed-use industry. “It’s got subsidized affordable caregiving at low cost for workers who need it and high-end caregiving that businesses are purchasing that allows the caregiving industry itself – which is predominately Black and brown and Asian women – to become business owners and to flourish,” she said.
Specifically for women of color who are working caregivers, she stressed that employers need to survey this multi-tasking workforce and find out what their needs are. “That’s an awareness that companies frequently don’t even have,” Tchen said. “Make sure you’ve got flexible working arrangements… [and] provide paid leave … as something becomes the norm in your company, not the exception.”