CLEVELAND — During our series known as The Mother Load, we've been telling you about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected families -- specifically women who were forced to leave their jobs in numbers never before seen. We've talked to women who had to leave their jobs to homeschool. But, this pandemic is changing our culture and our "new normal" might be a more balanced work and home life for all parents.
“We need to recognize as a society that all of our economies around the world are built on the backs of women's unpaid labor,” Melinda Gates tells the world on their foundation’s website.
Before the pandemic, women spent about four hours a day on unpaid household work. Men spent about two and a half. Once COVID hit, that number became even more disproportionate. That unfolded basket of laundry is so much more than just a battle of the sexes. It's hurting our economy.
According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: "Two extra hours of unpaid work per day such as cleaning, cooking or caring for a child leads to a 10% decrease in labor force participation for women."
Global research firm, McKinsey & Company found if our culture works toward gender-equality, it could lead to an extra $13 trillion dollars added to the GDP by 2030. Companies across the world are also realizing a more flexible schedule for working parents is working.
“A lot of organizations have been reaching out to us recently to kind of formalize those programs knowing that they can see some degree of success with it and they want to keep that going moving forward,” says Matthew Stegmeier.
He owns a local consulting firm, Stegmeier Consulting, specializing in workplace strategies. Stegmeier says companies are seeing an increase in productivity and the benefit of keeping working parents happy.
“I think that we are seeing a mind shift away from ‘flexible work and work from home is a privilege,' over to ‘this is just how we do business now.’ And it allows us to retain top talent. It lets us keep employees happy that are doing a good job for us, as opposed to ‘OK, this is only something for people who are the most successful performers or the people we like.'"
As the workplace culture changes in our "new normal," it’s still very crucial that society changes it's stereotypical gender roles.
“Men are critical in this,” says Case Western Reserve Professor, Diana Bilimoria, “and frankly we have seen that men have stepped up greatly, that they are taking a larger share of the home duties homework that previously might have been, you know, unconsciously delegated to women."
We reached out to several of Cleveland's largest employers to ask if they plan to change their standard working hours, but they declined interviews. Most implied that plans for the future are still being figured out.