Enterprising Women Spring 2021

SPEAK OUT by Kris Martinez Dismantling a Stacked Deck A ccording to a report by the National Women’s Law Center, women lost 140,000 jobs in December of 2020, which underlines the disastrous economic impact that the coronavirus continues to have on working women and their families. The pandemic has affected everyone and created more hardship than usual for our country’s most vulnerable populations. Black and Latina women experienced unemployment levels that were higher than women’s overall unemployment rate, even as systemic health and social inequities put people of color at increased risk from Covid-19. Additionally, women have been forced to cut back on hours or leave the workplace in droves due to the ongoing closure of schools and daycare centers. And for lower income women who work outside the home or single mothers who alone bear the burden of childcare, the situation is dire. Exacerbating a Situation Already Out of Balance Stepping back or down from work to attend to family needs may sound like a personal choice, but when the gender wage gap makes women’s income feel more disposable than a man’s (or a higher- earning partner’s), it’s often the obvious choice. For many dual-career families, it’s simply easier to opt for the path of least resistance: the traditional norm of a career-focused man and a family-focused woman. This is especially true if the man (or partner) is older, has a head start in his career, and earns a higher salary. It can be difficult to break the cycle: the man has more opportunities to earn more, and it’s harder for women to catch up. Women’s work – and women – just isn’t as valued as men’s. I loathe saying this because for crying out loud, it’s 2021, and aren’t we just over this by now? Haven’t women fought hard enough and long enough for equal rights and equal pay? We’ve Got a Long Way to Go, Baby When I was expecting my first child in 2002, I kept the news of my pregnancy hidden from my employer, a husband and wife team, until I was well after twenty weeks along. Part of me was just extremely private, but I was also keenly aware of how I would be viewed differently once they heard the news. Though I loved my job and the business owners, I knew the focus would immediately shift from what I was capable of professionally to how my new role as a mother would affect my work. As a small business, they’d never had to manage a maternity leave before and the concept of where an employee should pump milk was met with, “I dunno – how about you use the bathroom?” They said they didn’t really need to address such issues and figured they probably wouldn’t have anyone else who would ever be in my “situation.” After the birth of my second child in 2004, I left that job to start my own business. When talking with my own clients, I was hell bent on never mentioning that I had children. If clients knew I was a mother, they instantly stopped seeing me as a professional and only saw a mommy. And in the business world, this can be the death knell for women. Some clients felt they were justified in paying me less and worse – respecting me less. The lack of respect for women’s work doesn’t just come from clients or empathy- lacking employers. At a swim meet a few summers ago, my husband and I were in conversation with a group of parents who were new to the neighborhood. One man introduced himself and his soft-spoken Eshma / Shutterstock.com 66 enterprising Women