"If we have a pandemic crisis and an economic crisis and a racial reckoning crisis, we now have a fourth crisis of caregiving in this country," said TIME'S UP CEO Tina Tchen in conversation with Chief CEO Carolyn Childers and _able founding partner and Chief investor Lisa Blau. The struggles that were real before the pandemic became exacerbated by the pandemic as caregiving, therefore, became a core concern of gender inequity in the workplace. Last fall as the pandemic raged on, the charity made caregiving a core concern of their organization, launching the Care Economy Business Council, a new initiative working to rebuild infrastructure and champion gender equality in the private sector.

"The fastest way to change is to get companies to change their own practices, to build better workplace cultures," Tchen said. "I saw CEOs realizing that they were losing women, people of color, LGBTQ, disabled workers and in this economy, where there's a war for talent, they couldn't afford to do that anymore."

On the Caregiving Crisis in America — and What Is at Stake

"I remember the polling back during the Great Recession when I was in the White House," Tchen said of her time working in the Obama administration. "The polling told us that workers just wanted their employer to give them a job. They did not think their employer had a place to provide caregiving. Well, I'm happy to say that in the last decade, that attitude has shifted."

Unfortunately, workplaces are now scrambling to figure out how to provide these benefits across industries with limited support from the government. Aside from the United States and Papua New Guinea, Tchen explained, "Every other country in the world has some form of national paid leave policy. We did not even have a national sick leave policy, which meant 160 million workers went into the pandemic with no guarantee of having a paid sick day — which we clearly now know makes no sense, right? It doesn't make economic sense. It doesn't make sense from a public health perspective. It doesn't make sense from a societal perspective of making sure we're really fully invested in protecting families and our workforce."

Working mothers bear a disproportionate amount of burden when it comes caring for children and the elderly, with their caregiving demands amounting to about $65 billion in lost wages and economic activity — and unprecedented numbers of women have left the workforce altogether. "Women's labor force participation is at the lowest level since the 1980s. In one year, we wiped out three decades of progress of women being able to fully participate in the workforce," Tchen said. "And if we're going to get that talent back, we need to invest in caregiving."

On What Employers Can Do to Create Caregiving Infrastructure

"Caregiving is something that requires employers, the public sector, and policy makers to work with employees to solve. This is a big infrastructure investment that we need to make," Tchen said. Still, individual companies can be more nimble than Congress if they want to make change immediately: "A company can decide to do paid leave tomorrow, if it wants to, without having to wait for Congress to finish."

What employers ultimately need to do to bring the workplace into the 21st Century, is to "redo the design of how we organize work, scheduling, promotion practices," said Tchen. "We need to create a culture where women can be fully accepted in every dimension. The ultimate multitasker is a working mom so why don’t we invest in that and make that a check mark on the hiring list as opposed to a detriment? Let’s change how our workplaces are organized so that we can build a workforce that’s shaped around the 21st Century instead of the industrial revolution."

On the Culture Shift That Needs to Happen Across All Forms of Media

Tchen says that we need to change public policy, company policy, and the broader culture, too, in order to support workers of all kinds and truly combat gender discrimination across all of its forms.

"Men, or anyone who identifies other than a woman, need to realize they have a share in this. Our gender norms — that have been with us for a millennia — have women bearing the children, caring for them, and bearing the disproportionate responsibility for caring for not just the children, but the relatives in the home and our spouses. We need to shift that."

One example that Tchen provided to demonstrate what that cultural shift can look like is when Tracee Ellis Ross raised an observation with her producers on the set of Blackish that Rainbow, her character, was the only one in the background unloading the dishwasher. She asked, Why doesn’t Anthony also unload the dishwasher? To her credit, the producers changed the scene.

Tchen asks us to consider, "What is the cultural imagery that shows who bears the burdens of caregiving? That’s what we can do to start shifting culture."