Global pandemics have reshaped humanity throughout history through job losses, deaths, and poverty. About 9.6 million American workers have lost their jobs due to Covid-19 but the impact on both genders is uneven.
According to Reshma Sajani, founder of Girls Who Code, 30 years of progress were wiped out overnight. About 2.3 million women left the workforce last year, with women of color leaving at twice the rate of white women. America’s mothers, especially mothers of color, have borne the brunt of the pandemic. The end of the crisis does not mean a return to normal. For moms, “normal” wasn’t working in the first place.
To delve into this societal predicament, I interviewed five women famous in their fields: Kavita Bala (Dean of Cornell’s Ann S Powers College of Computing and Information Sciences at Cornell University), Rebecca Lister (Associate Professor of Accounting at Stanford Graduate School). business), Linda Low (Ecosystem Manager at Oasis Labs), Victoria Pettibone (Managing Partner of Astia Fund), and Navrina Singh (Founder and CEO of Credo AI, and Board Member at Mozilla Foundation). I’ve reached out to these outstanding women as thought leaders across industry and academia since I’ve been curious if the impact on women is equally pervasive in all walks of life.
Dean Bala defined the problem by saying: “During Covid-19, a lot of researchers, especially young professors with children, were negatively affected because they could not access their laboratories or had to provide more family care when all schools and day care centers closed. In this group, female researchers are disproportionately affected by family expectations. This affects academia’s ability to maintain a strong group of women who excel in research. The same has been felt across the professional workforce.” These comments made me wonder about the specific factors that led to the decline in the number of female researchers. Dean Bala correctly explained, “This is primarily due to a lack of care for children and the elderly. There is a dearth of alternative educational opportunities for the children of young female faculty members. Therefore faculty should take care of the children themselves. Women have to provide all the practical care and it was not They can write as many papers or do a lot of research during the pandemic.” Dean Bala hinted at the more important issue that teleportation was not designed for all children. As a result, a greater burden is placed on mothers to ensure continuity of learning for children.
Along the same lines, Professor Lister said, “Research shows that women have been disproportionately affected by the epidemic, in large part, because household tasks (which already largely fall on women’s shoulders) have grown. I personally experienced this as my husband and I both faced demanding occupations.” Extensive time, along with online school supervision for our young daughter in kindergarten when the pandemic started. My husband was wonderfully helpful and involved, however my research was undoubtedly affected.”
While some women have had to leave the workforce, even women who remain have been affected, Professor Lister said, “I expect that for women who have not left the workforce, we can see the long-term effects in terms of career advancement and (extension). This can That significantly reduces many of the advances we have seen in recent years.
Employers responded positively with understanding eyes. Linda shares a view that probably reflects many companies, “At Oasis Labs, I’m not saying we’ve come up with everything, but we do our best to make things relatively easy for our teammates, especially those with young children. For example, we’re a distributed team. In full, our team has the transition time to the office which is made for better use, such as taking care of their family members and most importantly, taking care of themselves.We also have flexible working hours.Oasis is not a typical 9-5 workplace.In any given project, we will have people Across US, European and Asian time zones, everyone is very accustomed to each other’s schedule.Sometimes we have teammates who can’t be there in the morning due to childcare issues, and they’ll flag everyone up on Slack, and that’s totally fine.Everyone bears The team has a great responsibility, and they will get their work done during the hours when they are available in time. Due to the remote working policy and flexible working hours, we hope that everyone will be able to overcome the epidemic more easily.”
It is a pleasure to see companies provide flexibility to employees. Working from home has become the norm for jobs that only need a computer and phone. But the status of the blue-collar workforce is far apart, deepening societal division. Some working-class women now had two jobs: Besides their normal day job, they worked sidecars as drivers, delivery workers, teachers, cooks, or hall watchers to combat rising inflation.
After researching the issue, I wondered if any policies in place would help women in the workplace. A survey by the Center for Global Policy Analysis concluded that the United States lags far behind other countries in providing paid parental leave at the federal level. For example, Britain and Japan offer 39 and 52 weeks of paid parental leave, respectively, while the United States does not offer any. US federal law guarantees new parents 6 weeks of leave but this is unpaid and therefore affects the parents financially especially in time of need. In addition, not all workers even qualify for this unpaid leave. There are only a few other countries – none from the developed world – that do not offer paid parental leave. Having said that, nine US states and the District of Columbia mandate some degree of paid parental leave.
The issue of parental leave does not end there. Even where paid parental leave exists, there are policies that unconsciously reinforce inequality in the workplace, exacerbated by the pandemic. A male employee of the company can go back to work (from home) a few weeks after giving birth while still on leave while the mother has been away for about a year. This creates a difference in career advancement between the sexes. Similarly, some universities offer a one-year (research) extension on the tenure track to become a full-time faculty member for both parents.
The equal parental leave policy was actually created with the best of intentions because otherwise, employers would have to do the uncomfortable and frankly impossible task of evaluating who offers more child support. Prof. Lister succinctly summed up, “Giving everyone the same relief does not help the people who are most affected. It only makes it worse for one party.”
This discussion led me to inquire about how society fights women’s issues. Victoria and I discussed what should happen to ease this burden – men take on a more prominent role in the household for one person. Government assistance is another way – the children’s tax credit is already one way to support families. More importantly, however, Victoria expressed her view, “Payments to women are a first aid; instead, the focus should be on childcare, women’s education, and elderly care. Although temporary payments are beneficial in the short term, It does not create long-term sustainable solutions.”
Reshma Sujani, through the Mothers Marshall Plan, spearheaded a more comprehensive strategy supported by female leaders such as Anu Duggal (Female Founders Fund) and Julia Collins (Planet FWD). The plan calls for a framework for women and having children: direct payments to mothers, affordable child care, equal pay, and retraining programs for women can reduce the problem.
Can technologies like artificial intelligence be developed to help women? Robots can partially replace the domestic cleaning done by women, but it is very difficult to replace childcare or elderly care with artificial intelligence, explained Dean Balla. Despite automation or camera-based solutions, it is difficult to replace the human with the care of the family. In addition, families with lower economic status may not be able to afford these solutions.
Navrina spoke about issues related to AI governance and bias. I explained how extensive and comprehensive data collection should be. A biased data set can lead to artificial intelligence models that serve only a section of the community. Sometimes bias also unconsciously creeps into the algorithms based on the designer’s background and experience. Data collection should include all sections of the population for the study. Additionally, the algorithm should be developed by a team of designers of both genders and socioeconomic backgrounds.
These discussions left me wanting more of the world of AI development: from emotional robots for children to machine learning for training women. We are in the first stage of developing these technologies to achieve equal opportunities for women and thus the advancement of the human race.
Looking back, what came out of these interviews is the overriding fact that Covid-19 has exacerbated the problem of gender inequality in the workplace. While both men and women are affected during the pandemic, there is a strong difference between what the pandemic means for each gender. Technologies such as artificial intelligence can help reduce impact if they focus on major women’s issues and are developed with an inclusive gender model. One of the key aspects revealed is that policy and technology development for women needs a thorough investigation of the conscious and unconscious ramifications. Collectively, our goal should be to go beyond the pre-pandemic ‘normal’ level because this natural level was initially uneven.