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Gendering the Post-Pandemic Global Economic Recovery: A Paradigm Change

October 9, 2020


Alicia Bárcena Ibarra, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)

Anita Bhatia, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Execuritve Director for Resource Management, UN System Coordination, Sustainability and Partnerships at UN Women

Nancy Folbre, feminist economist, Director of the program on Gender and Care Work at the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

The discussion was moderated by Chiedo Nwankwor, Director, SAIS Women Lead; Lecturer, African Studies Prrogam, Johns Hopkins SAIS

Feminist economists and experts in gender equality joined SAIS Women Lead to discuss gendering the post-pandemic global economic recovery. The conversation examined what it would take for this paradigm change to occur and, finally, center gender at all levels of governance, the economy, and society. The panelists provided insightful presentations on the value of care work, women's autonomy, and leadership.

Folbre called attention to the importance of words and analysis in engaging the care sector. During the pandemic, the idea of parents (especially mothers) not being able to work due to childcare or school closures has been a reoccurring theme in the discourse. However, Folbre denounced this statement and called for a correction. She noted that parents who take care of their children are engaged in full-time work, albeit unpaid. The pandemic's complex societal issues have resulted in increased expectations and workload for mothers without the resources to match said expectations. Folbre also highlighted the pandemic-exacerbated structural inequalities as an opportunity for change through implementing feminist, pro-family policies like paid family leave, universal childcare, and elderly care. 

The panel also discussed the shadow pandemic and the status of women in world leadership. To this, Bhatia highlighted the necessity to stop using gender-blind economic stimulus. These, she argued, fail to address women's disproportionate experiences of the pandemic's adverse impacts across the globe. Bárcena added that it is of the utmost importance that any economic plan must capitalize on empowering women's economic, financial, and physical autonomy. Economies cannot and will not flourish by limiting human capital, Bhatia concluded.

The panelists reached a consensus around the importance of a political compact for redistributing power, care, and work. So often, policymakers design and implement economic recovery plans that exclude women's voices from the start and lack awareness of the unique experiences they face in the economy and labor market. Through their questions and comments, the panelists and audience agreed on the importance of committing more resources to expand women's and girls' education and mentorship from the bottom-up and top-down, protection from all forms of violence, and access to economic resources and opportunities.