Toward an Equal Economy
As Wellesley recognizes International Women's Day, we acknowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic hit women hard, with disproportionate job losses for women in general and Black and Hispanic women in particular, and with working mothers facing impossible choices as schools and childcare centers closed. Job sectors where women are more likely to work were devastated, exposing deeply inadequate child-care systems, and erasing decades of gains by women in the labor market. In December 2021, 56.5% of women were in the workforce in the U.S.—about the same as in July 1988.
“This pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women in terms of job losses and economic inequality, and women of color and single mothers in particular have been the most affected,” says Olga Shurchkov ’01, associate professor of economics and director of the Knapp Social Science Center at Wellesley. “I find this in my research, but this has been found universally, as well. It’s clear that the economy essentially just does not fit the needs of these groups.”
On April 1 and 2, Wellesley will host a virtual summit, The Economy She Deserves: Building an Agenda for a Women-Centered Recovery, on women’s economic equality—funded by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation and in partnership with Spelman College and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London—with the goal of developing an agenda for systemic change. Shurchkov and Layli Maparyan, the Katherine Stone Kaufmann ’67 Executive Director of the Wellesley Centers for Women and professor of Africana studies, are leading the effort.
“We also view this as an ongoing project. … We hope that Wellesley will become the leader and the authority on economic issues for young women,” says Shurchkov.
Additionally, Wellesley will be conducting public-opinion research with a diverse group of women, aged 18–30, hoping to better understand their current economic realities and hopes for the future. “We saw a gap in the literature. There are fewer studies looking at young women, and also fewer forward-looking studies,” Shurchkov says. “We would like to understand not only their current situation, but their aspirations and expectations of what they would like to see in the future.”
This is an excerpt from an article by Lisa Scanlon Mogolov ’99 and Sophie Hurwitz ’21 that appears in the winter 2022 issue of “Wellesley” magazine. Read the full story on the “Wellesley” magazine website.