As we all know by now, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the economy, and working women have experienced more than their fair share of economic losses. For starters, the industries that employ more women, like retail, healthcare and hospitality, were hit very hard by the pandemic. Second, the mass closures of child care centers and schools have forced many women to leave the workforce to care for their children.

In fact, between February 2020 and August 2020, mothers of children 12 years and younger lost 2.2 million jobs, compared to the 870,000 jobs lost by fathers. These losses are even worse for women of color, as 6.4 percent of Black mothers have left the workforce, compared to only 2.4 percent of white mothers, according to a report from the Dallas Federal Reserve. What’s more, according to a report from the National Women’s Law Center, more than 2 million women have left the U.S. workforce since the COVID-19 pandemic began. A December 2020 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that women were leaving the workforce at four times the rate of men.

To address this problem, a coalition of 50 female CEOs, actors and activists have joined together to call on the Biden administration to create a task force dedicated to implementing a “Marshall Plan for Moms,” to pay mothers for their unpaid, unseen labor, and to pass policies addressing parental leave, affordable childcare and pay equity. This wouldn’t be the first time the Marshall Plan has been implemented. In 1948, The Marshall Plan gave financial aid to Europe after World War II.

“This pandemic has absolutely decimated the careers of working moms across the country,” said Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code.com, who is spearheading the movement. “This is not an isolated incident — it’s a national crisis, and we can start to address it within the first 100 days of this administration.”

To promote the movement, Saujani ran a full-page ad in The New York Times on Jan. 26 that featured a letter she wrote to President Biden asking him, in his first 100 days, to: 

  • Establish a task force to create a Marshall Plan for moms.
  • Implement a short-term monthly payment to moms depending on needs and resources.
  • Pass long overdue policies like paid family leave, affordable childcare and pay equity.

The letter was signed by 50 women, including celebrities such as Connie Britton, Amy Schumer, Julianne Moore, Eva Longoria, and Gabrielle Union, along with retail execs such as Katia Beauchamp, Mindy Grossman, and Jennifer Hyman.

The plan has been supported by many large organizations as well. However, some industry insiders are pressing pause. In an opinion piece published in Newsweek on Feb. 2, “We Should Not Pay Women to Be Moms,” Samantha Ettus, founder and CEO of Park Place Payments, and Amy Nelson, founder and CEO of The Riveter, offered opposing viewpoints.

“We’re all in agreement with the problem: mothers bear the brunt of the pandemic’s damage,” Ettus and Nelson wrote. “We’re also in agreement on the need for paid family leave, affordable childcare and pay equity. But an economic recovery plan to pay for mothering, which might have been a suitable idea in 1950, has no place in 2021.”

Ettus and Nelson, who are co-hosts of the podcast What’s Her Story With Sam & Amy, argue that when you encourage legislation that prioritizes parenting by one gender, you encourage an indivision of labor. “Think of all the men who will feel vindicated telling their wives, “You do the laundry because you’re getting paid for it!,'” they wrote. What’s more, the plan for “moms” excludes households in which there are “two dads, single fathers, grandparents as primary caregivers, or any other of the myriad configurations of the modern American family that come together to raise a child,” Ettus and Nelson added.

Furthermore, Ettus and Nelson wrote that you can’t ask for gender equity on one hand and then compensate moms, but not dads, for staying home. “In a world decimated by COVID-19, the ‘division of labor’ at risk of breaking down today is the one inside the home, which is, in turn, reflected in the workplace,” they wrote. “The goal of an economic recovery is not to compensate women for their unfair burdens at home. It’s to address the underlying issues that got us here and put American women back to work.”

What are your thoughts on the Marshall Plan for Moms? We’d love to hear your perspective! If you’re interested in offering comments for a follow-up story, or would just like to offer your opinion, feel free to drop me a line at mcampanelli@napco.com.