Guest Post: Lean In | Lay Off: Sandwiched Female Caregivers

Thank you to Monica Stynchula, MSW, MPH for her guest post today on challenges facing women at work and as caregivers. Monica is the CEO & Founder of REUNIONCare, Inc. located at the Innovation Lab @ Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. She is a member of the USA Small Business Administration National Women’s Business Council and a former member of the AARP Florida Executive Council. She serves on the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration Telehealth Advisory Council, which developed Florida’s first comprehensive Telehealth statute.

Employment and Financial Insecurity of Today’s Female Caregivers

Lean In = 2013

Sheryl Sandberg released her NYTimes bestseller Lean In, Women, Work and the Will to Lead and set the corporate world on a path toward greater gender equity. Ms. Sandberg’s writing encouraged women to break the gender stereotype and employers to compensate men and women equally. Lean In, you can have it all, work, family, personal fulfillment. Hardworking, aspiring women leaders joined in the movement. One of my favorite quotes is:

“In 1970, women were paid 59 cents for every man’s dollar earned. In 2010, that number was 77 cents, prompting activist Marlo Thomas to joke, “A dozen eggs have gone up 10 times that amount.”

Lay Off = 2020

2020. The year everything changed. Women suffered fifty-five percent of the job losses this year. Keep in mind these are terminations made by employers. Many other women have opted out of the new work at home employment. Lastly, the closure rate of women-owned small businesses is approaching one million this year. This count most likely is an undercount of the actual number of storefronts, services, and solo proprietors who have dropped out due to the failing economy.

Pandemic Exposed Many Inequities

The rapid shift of our daily work and school schedules to life at home is impacting women on many levels. When schools shut down the classroom shifts to the kitchen table. When the nursing home is no longer safe, the spare room becomes grandpa’s new home. When unemployment benefits run out, a realignment of food and shelter take priority over building a new business or schooling for a new career.

Inequality has many faces. Gender and race are the two inequities most often studied. Women are losing ground climbing the corporate ladder. In fact, McKinsey and Company’s research shows one-third of women ascending to the Director, and C Suites are choosing to drop out this year. The loss of role models and advocates to advance the next generation of female leaders is our canary in the coal mine.

McKinsey’s study highlights the lack of new work norms with our new home office design. Many female employees feel that work is now 24/7. That the risk of not being constantly present will limit their future advancement using an unwritten rule book that hints of discrimination. Racial inequity is even more pronounced in corporate America. Minority women and single mothers carrying all the household responsibilities may not fit the company first mentality. 

Sandwich Generation Squeezed To their Limits

This timeline exposes the critical strain we are now placing on family caregivers. Today’s remote employee lacks the work-life balance to succeed. Yesterday’s Employee Benefits package of a gym membership, paid time off, insurance coverage, childcare, travel reimbursement, and the list goes on, are not applicable to today’s remote work environment and pandemic restrictions. In fact, employers are not adjusting these benefits to meet new challenges.

Moreover, employees are less likely to voice their struggles with the knowledge that another round of layoffs could happen. The increased demands at home are leading many women to opt-out of the job market altogether.

Caregiving In Crisis

The snowball is growing on the stressor family caregivers are facing. My fear is we are headed for an avalanche of burn-out of the nation’s 53 million family caregivers. We have an urgent need for employers, government programs, and home and community-based services to tackle this crisis. We need national policy and state initiatives to improve the work vital family members provide for free every day.

Stay Home, Stay Safe,

Monica Stynchula, MSW, MPHReport this

Holly Donaldson

Holly P. Donaldson, CFP® writes and consults on the psychology of money. Her fee-only, product-free financial planning practice focuses on increasing financial self-efficacy for those seeking a financial navigator to help them make good decisions. She is the author of The Mindful Money Mentality: How to Find Balance in Your Financial Future (Porchview Publishing, 2013) and publisher of the award-winning monthly e-letter, "The View From the Porch." With a fully virtual practice in Seminole, Florida, she primarily serves clients located in the Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater areas. Holly will also work with clients who are a good fit located elsewhere in the United States.

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