A COVID-19 Mother’s Day Gift – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

Maybe you’ll get to hug your mom in person this weekend, but it’s likely that your Mother’s Day moment will be online or by phone. We’re not back to what we call normal and travel is still a luxury many of us don’t have. Especially if Moms are older and health-compromised. COVID -19 may have many of us disappointed over missing a warm embrace, but it should also make us plan the appreciation of the women in our families, and communities, more deliberately.

My daughter in New England announced weeks in advance that my Mother’s Day gift would be arriving soon. It doesn’t matter what kind of present she sends, I could feel her love bubble up through my cell phone. And she probably felt the mommy love I sent her way. We both know that feeling well. It just gets magnified thinking of Mother’s Day.It’s no secret that nurturing women don’t limit their talents to one day, or to their own families. Their love and humanity is a treasure to all of society. Mothers, grandmothers, and all caring women are like the glue of society. They hold their families together as times and circumstances change. They care for their communities and are 75% of the nonprofit workforce. Their good works nurture us all. Yet, in research just a few years go, women leaders of nonprofits, the decision makers, are likely to run only the smaller, hands-on organizations. The leaders of large budget groups are only 18% women. Further, that 18% receive 23% less in scary than their male counterparts.

Why bring up this inequity now? I’m hoping that women who are often overlooked and taken for granted will have a different fate this Mother’s Day. We have become extraordinarily grateful to the many women are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. They constitute almost 80% of health care workers in the U.S. Yet, many of them have been asked to take care of coronavirus patients without adequate protection. They’ve had to use and reuse Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) in ways that are unsafe. Caretakers not only for patients, but for children and grandparents, they then have to put entire families at risk.

I’ve wondered if it’s because they are women, and without much power, that they are put in this position.  We give them great parades and shout-outs, so should they be happy to sacrificing so much, including their lives, in the line of female duty? As for the few nurses who refused to work without masks, they were fired. How dare they!

Healthcare workers are not the only women at risk. Almost 54% of employee in the hospitality industry are women, even though only 1 in 22 CEOs are women. These women deserve better.

COVID – 19 should have us revisiting the role of women and taking a hard look at their leadership potential. By the end of February, leaders across the globe were faced with enforcing social distancing. And who jumped on this early? It was women leaders like the prime minister of New Zealand. In the US, the first black woman mayor of San Fransisco took action earlier than California’s Governor Gavin Newsom.

Let’s aim for a cultural shift. No more demeaning women or risking their well-being. No more tokenism for women at the top. By all means make those phone calls and send gifts for Mother’s Day. But show your gratitude with long-term and long-ranging gifts. Hire, elect, and promote women leaders this Mother’s Day, and every day going forward.

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