Why This Women’s Equality Day We’re Thinking About Working Mothers
by Parker Piscitello-Faye
A year ago today, in the middle of the pandemic, our founder Erin Papworth wrote an amazing article in honor of National Women’s Day. On the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment’s passing, she talked about its outcome, its pitfalls, the history of women’s equality, and why we still have such a long way to go. You can read that article here.
However, what didn’t Erin didn’t know as she wrote that article was that next year’s National Women’s Day piece would be about women like her.
Erin is fearless, hopeful, and gutsy. She’s a CEO, founder of a fintech startup, and spent 13 years in 15 different countries doing humanitarian work. Erin’s also a working mom.
And, in the aftermath of the pandemic, the election, and now, the more than 100 year anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, we want to take this opportunity to talk about working moms and what this year has looked like for them.
COVID-19 Disproportionately Impacted Women (and Mothers)
As more and more data emerges about the pandemic’s impact on the economy, it indicates that women, and working mothers in particular, were drastically, negatively affected.
Economic and Financial Impact
Some of the most prominent effects of the pandemic on women and mothers have been economic. As reported by the National Women’s Law Center, “2.3 million women completely dropped out of the labor force between February 2020 and February 2021.”
Working mothers have accounted for many of these losses. A report from the International Monetary Fund indicates that 45% of the increase in the employment gender gap was due to fewer women with young children working. Instead of working, they had to provide childcare. Moreover, recent reporting from Gallup indicates that women are more likely to care for children on a regular basis in 50% of households while men are more likely to take care of children in 7%.
This past year, working mothers didn’t just struggle to balance taking care of children and their jobs; they struggled alone.
Worse still, similar to what Erin noted last year in her article about voting rights and credit, not all women have been equally impacted. A McKinsey survey indicates that COVID-19 has been difficult for Black and Latina mothers who are 2 and 1.6 times more likely (respectively) to be responsible for all childcare and housework than white mothers. The pandemic exacerbated existing challenges working mothers face, and it did so unequally.
Emotional Impact and Burnout
Unfortunately, the pandemic hasn’t just impacted working mothers financially and economically; it’s taken an emotional toll on many. As reported by one mother in the McKinsey survey, “I have weeks when I feel burned out. Before the pandemic, my parents helped with childcare, but now everything falls on me. I feel overwhelmed at least two or three days a week.”
Juggling childcare, responsibilities at home, and their careers, working mothers sacrificed their mental health to get through these past two years.
Looking Forward: Erin is Hoping for a Better 2022
However, while working mothers have struggled financially and mentally over the course of the pandemic, there are still reasons to hold out hope. And, sitting down with Erin Papworth, Nav.it’s founder and CEO recently, I realized the importance of believing in a better future: a future which so many working moms are working to build.
For instance, Erin was quick to note her belief in the “ton of opportunities as more entrepreneurs, more startups, and more companies have been started in the last year than in the previous two years before COVID.” She’s “hoping that this creates an environment where women can redefine how they engage in work and where working from home becomes much more acceptable, creating a flexible working environment where you can be present for your children and also garner income”.
Furthermore, pausing after a deep breath, she noted the reality of our economy, and the world, in 2021. “We can’t afford for women not to work. Women were 50% of the labor market before the pandemic, and inflation is increasing the cost of living for people. Dual income households are really almost imperative to be middle-class these days.” What has resulted, she described, is a juggling act that she herself performs.
Being an Expert Momtrepreneur
As a mom, fintech founder, and CEO, Erin works to be her best self in and out of the office. This starts, she noted, with the role model she tries to be for her son. She works to represent “a woman as a leader, as a founder of a business, as navigating fundraising and investors and the business logic” and be her best self as a CEO and mom. In return, quite simply, Erin just hopes her son is “learning by osmosis that women are amazing.”
Creating Nav.it, which helps users recognize and reduce their financial stress, has been part of this process. Helping users develop better money habits, Erin encourages other working moms to show up for themselves, for their families, for their companies and continue, through osmosis, to prove how amazing women can be.
Celebrating National Women’s Day
So, yes, this National Women’s Day, we’re writing and thinking about Erin. Because we need to pay close attention to working mothers and their stories this year. Because even after 100 years of work towards equality, there remains an indescribable amount of work which still remains undone. But also, because Erin, like many working moms is awesome. She deserves to be appreciated today and for many days to come.