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; travel is still a luxury many of us don't have. COVID -19 may leave 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 are a treasure to all of society. Mothers, grandmothers and all caring women are the glue of society. They hold their families together as times and circumstances change. They care for their communities. Their good works nurture us all (women are 75% of the nonprofit workforce). Yet, research just a few years ago found that 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% female. Further, that 18% receives 23% less in salary 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 experience this Mother's Day. We have become extraordinarily grateful to the many women 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 in ways that are unsafe. These women are caretakers not only for patients but also for children and grandparents who they then may put 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 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!
Health care workers are not the only women at risk. Almost 54% of employees 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 female leaders such as the prime minister of New Zealand. In the U.S., the first black female mayor of San Francisco took action earlier than California's Gov. 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 female leaders this Mother's Day — and every day going forward.
Contact Deborah Levine, an author, trainer/coach and editor of the American Diversity Report, at firstname.lastname@example.org.