Girls Who Code founder and CEO Reshma Saujani and celebrities such as Amy Schumer and Gabrielle Union are calling on the Biden administration to pay mothers for unpaid labor and to pass policies addressing parental leave, affordable child care, and pay equity.

By Libby Ryan
Updated January 29, 2021
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Credit: Getty Images.

Nearly a year into the coronavirus pandemic, it's clear that moms are bearing the brunt of the fallout from the crisis. Disproportionate numbers of women, especially Black and Latinx women, have dropped out—or been forced out—of the workforce in order to care for children at home.

Reshma Saujani, the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, is calling on the Biden administration to address the problem immediately by creating a "Marshall Plan for Moms" in a full-page advertisement in the New York Times.

"Dear President Biden: You know this well: moms are the bedrock of society. And we're tired of working for free. We need a Marshall Plan for Moms—now," reads the ad.

The coalition is asking for the Biden administration to create a task force to implement a "Marshall Plan for Moms," which would pay mothers for their caregiving labor and pass legislation around parental leave, affordable child care, and pay equity.

Signees include activists, such as Tarana Burke of the Me Too movement and transgender advocate Geena Rocero, Hollywood stars like Connie Britton, Eva Longoria, Alyssa Milano, Julianne Moore, Amy Schumer, Amber Tamblyn, Charlize Theron, and Gabrielle Union, and business leaders, such as Birchbox CEO Katia Beauchamp and Bumble CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd.

"This pandemic has absolutely decimated the careers of working moms across the country," said Saujani in a press release. "This is not an isolated incident—it is a national crisis, and we can start to address it within the first 100 days of this Administration."

For those a little rusty on last century's history, the Marshall Plan was created to help Europe recover from the devastation of World War II. This new Marshall Plan for Moms would be aimed at helping mothers recover what they lost during the pandemic—and also help fix inequalities that predate COVID-19.

"In December, all the jobs lost in the U.S. economy were lost by women," Saujani points out in a press release. "And the situation is particularly bad for Black women, 154,000 of whom left the workforce entirely. We need to put in place a plan for moms, and we need it now."

"Like the original Marshall Plan of 1948, this plan would be a financial investment in rebuilding from the ground up," the New York Times ad continues. The Girls Who Code founder also wrote on Instagram, "Any economic recovery plan that the administration puts forth has to put mothers at the center of it."

So what exactly would the new Marshall Plan entail? The ad calls for specific actions, including implementing a short-term monthly payment to moms depending on needs and resources. The group also demands the administration pass policies for paid family leave and affordable child care, both of which are crucial pieces to recovering from the pandemic.

Saujani also wrote an opinion piece for The Hill in December, including more specifics for what she'd like to see in the plan. She echoed Melinda Gates's call for a "caregiving czar" to oversee the Marshall Plan and advocate for mothers, helping illustrate the unpaid and often unseen labor that women do. And the CEO suggested $2,400 means-tested monthly payments to moms (meaning the payments would likely be capped at a certain income).

"It's time to put a dollar figure on our labor," the ad reads. "Motherhood isn't a favor and it's not a luxury. It's a job."

And while all of this is true—and necessary—the Marshall Plan for Moms might actually fall a bit short. "An economic recovery plan to pay for mothering, which might have been a suitable idea in 1950, has no place in 2021," Samantha Ettus and Amy Nelson, co-hosts of the podcast What's Her Story With Sam & Amy, wrote for Newsweek. Why? "Paying women—and only women—for raising kids and running a home is precisely the wrong way to show a woman her worth and address gender inequity."

It becomes an issue when we're only talking about one gender when we discuss parenting: "Think of all the men who will feel vindicated telling their wives: 'You do the laundry because you are getting paid for it!'"

As Ettus and Nelson point out, targeting only women leaves out the dads, LGBTQ families, grandparents, and more that make up American families today and all share responsibilities. The reality is that it's not only moms who stay home to care for children—though there is a very real imbalance that is still causing even working mothers to do more around the house—so it's not just moms who should be compensated.

"Rather than what amounts to a paycheck as compensation for the rampant sexism that led us here, we propose a solution that will help women go back to work: A monthly stimulus check to provide childcare providers—regardless of their gender—with critical funds to survive," Ettus and Nelson wrote. That way women—and especially women of color—are given much-needed support, but they aren't just pigeon-holed into only being caretakers. That way we're talking about a recovery plan that helps to create an even playing field for all families.

Additional reporting by Melissa Mills.

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