I wanted to take some time to reflect on the special role that women play in our families, in business, and in leadership. I recognize that these last couple of years have been difficult for women in our City.
Women in the workplace.
In 1920, women represented about 20% of the workforce. A hundred years later, that number was 58%. But sadly, women – particularly women of color – still disproportionately represent the lowest wage earners.
During the pandemic, women left the workplace at twice the rate of men. Overall, women’s participation in the workforce fell to its lowest rates in over 30 years. One in four women who became unemployed during the pandemic cited lack of childcare as the reason for their job loss. For many other women in essential and frontline jobs – such as healthcare and grocery store workers – staying employed meant risking their own health and the health of their loved ones.
Women in business.
Women-owned businesses were especially hard hit by the pandemic. In many cases, such businesses tend to be smaller, with fewer financial reserves, yet only 5% of women-owned businesses across California received PPP loans and other relief, despite acute need, loss of revenue, and impact on business operations.
Women in Government.
As our first female Fire Chief, Kristin Crowley, recently said about young girls, “If she can see her, she can be her.”
But at LA City Hall, only three of our fifteen Councilmembers are women. In the CD-11 race, only two of the eight candidates are women. We’ve never had a woman as Mayor or City Attorney. Running for office is hard. Really hard. It means stepping into the spotlight where inevitable criticism follows, it means giving up time with loved ones. But we need more women in City leadership – we bring valuable perspectives, life experiences, and talents that should have a role in the decision-making process about issues in this City that affect us.
Things are getting better.
The good news is that women’s businesses are bouncing back, and unemployment rates for women have dropped. But, we need to make long-term changes that close the wage gap, improve working conditions and family leave options, better align childcare and school systems to the needs of working mothers, and ensure that women-owned businesses have access to the support and resources necessary for success. We cannot allow the pandemic to set back a generation of entrepreneurial women. Policy needs to reflect that women have fundamental roles in both the local economy and in families, and to support them in both.