In their annual letter, the philanthropists have advice for world and business leaders heading into a recovery. Bill and Melinda Gates have a plan for rebuilding and reinvigorating the country after the pandemic. It starts with women.
In their 13th annual letter–which gets pored over in both the non-profit and for-profit worlds for insights into the philanthropists’ sizable interests and how they might spend an endowment worth $49.8 billion–they describe the bleak conditions, as a result of the ongoing effects of the pandemic.
“Covid‐19 has cost lives, sickened millions, and thrust the global economy into a devastating recession,” write the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation co-chairs. They add: While the worst may not be over, there is cause for optimism after the creation of new tests, treatments, and vaccines–leading them to opine on what happens when recovery sets in.
The couple have a few suggestions for rebuilding a global community that’s stronger than it was prior to the pandemic. While their recommendations are largely focused on governments, some of their advice is applicable for business. Namely, their call to support women should resonate with any entrepreneurs interested in keeping their workforces vibrant amid the crisis and beyond.
Women in the U.S. are leaving the workforce in droves. Since February, at the outset of the pandemic, women have lost 5.4 million jobs, compared with the 4.4 million jobs lost by men. They began last year even with men, with around 50 percent of all jobs. That’s disturbing data for both Gateses no doubt, but Melinda, a longtime advocate for women in the workplace, points out that even those who still have jobs are paying professional consequences. “With billions of people now staying home, the demand for unpaid care work–cooking, cleaning, and childcare–has surged,” she writes, adding that women are taking the brunt of the extra load. The effect is chilling, she says: “Globally, a two‐hour increase in women’s unpaid care work is correlated with a 10 percentage point decrease in women’s labor force participation.”
“It’s time to start treating child care as essential infrastructure–just as worthy of funding as roads and fiber optic cables. In the long term, this will help create more productive and inclusive post‐pandemic economies.” Companies would also do well to support employees with childcare needs: from continuing to provide flexible work arrangements to supplying increased mentorship opportunities.