Women's History Month: In-person learning, daycare are keys to getting women back to work amid pandemic

NEW YORK (WABC) -- In part 1 of our two-part look at how the pandemic has affected women in the workforce, we introduced you to Leslie Chiaramonte and Stephanie Kinley, two mothers who had to leave their jobs to take care of their children while they learned remotely from home.

Now, in part two, we'll examine some possible solutions, namely a focus on safe in-person schooling and a focus on daycare.

"Basically, a babysitter was going to (cost) what I was bringing home every month," Chiaramonte said. "For someone else to sit home with my kids."

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She was a nurse working on a COVID floor, while Kinley did research for a law firm.

"I am basically paying student loans for nothing," she said.

For them to get back to work, COVID numbers must fall, in-person school must come back, and experts say the country needs to prioritize daycare and family leave.

"It would revolutionize our labor force," Rutgers economist Yana Rodgers said.

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Mara Bolis, with Oxfam America, says childcare is part of infrastructure.

"Do you know that we put in the Cares Act, we put more money into Delta airlines than we did into the entire childcare sector?" she said. "We do not expect anyone to go to work without a road on which to drive to work. That's where we have to get to. We have to get to recognizing the fact that childcare is essential infrastructure that deserves investment, and it will garner returns in terms of GDP growth, in terms of wages, and in terms of tax revenue."

Another indicator is American history. A century ago, after the 1918 flu pandemic, the roaring 20s brought the economy back to life as people celebrated and traveled. Businesses boomed, and spending and jobs took off.

"In December 2019, women made up just over half of the U.S. work force," Rodgers said. "And now, we are just under half again."

The US economy lost 140,000 jobs in December, every single one of them held by women. In the same month, men gained 16,000 jobs.

If women get back to work, so will the economy.

"This is stimulus," Bolis said. "It's a win-win-win."

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