“We must encourage policies that support working families, give children access
to the high-quality early learning care they need, and remove barriers so businesses run successfully.”
– Amanda Adkins
Women in the Workforce
Working mothers have been adversely affected by the pandemic and are now being pummeled by a weak economy and rising inflation. We need to help women who lost their jobs or gave up their jobs to raise kids during the pandemic, to re-enter the workforce if desired. These women were vital to our economy, and the nation has suffered a tremendous brain drain over the last 18 months.
In Congress I will:
- Be a champion for programs and policies that help women rejoin the workforce, thereby strengthening the economy;
- Work to remove barriers and encourage employers to offer flexible work environments and benefits; and
- Pursue solutions that improve access to high-quality early education for families of young children, leaving decisions to parents, not the government.
Women in the Labor Force and Impact on Business
Parenting and creating a work-life balance was a concern before the pandemic lock-downs in 2020. Now, as more women remain out of the workforce, the economy – and parents – are suffering. 60 percent of parents said “pandemic-parenting” was the most stressful time in their parenting lives. Parents feel disconnected from the support and resources that allow them to achieve success at home and in the workforce.1
As of June 2022, women’s labor force participation was 58.3%, a full percentage point below pre-pandemic levels. Since February 2020, the economy has experienced a net loss of nearly 822,000 jobs, with women accounting for 88% of those losses.2 Female labor force participation in the Kansas City area is at about 75%, which is lower than most comparable Midwest metropolitan areas.3
It is critical to our economy and the success of business that women are supported in their workforce endeavors. Companies with higher percentages of women in the workforce report more job satisfaction overall, not just from the female population. They also report more dedication to the organization, more positive employee engagement and higher retention.4
So, what can we do to get women back into the workforce? First, we must support programs that increase workplace flexibility. Next, we need to incentivize employers to allow for more employee paid-leave. And finally, we must improve access to high-quality early learning for American families.
Businesses should be incentivized to create the kind of environment their employees want – this includes flexible work schedules, childcare support, and hybrid work environments that encourage a work-life balance.
We know that flexibility is a major factor for women when considering a job choice, yet prior to the pandemic, those flexible arrangements were hard to come by. The pandemic forced companies to adopt remote-work policies and more flexible schedules. Remote-work is here to stay in some capacity and government policies need to adapt accordingly.
For example, with increased remote-workers, companies are now in the unenviable position of keeping up with income tax laws in multiple states, not just where the company is based. As more and more companies actively recruit and hire remote employees, employers are forced into a cumbersome compliance process, tracking where employees work and withholding – or not withholding – income tax as required on a state-by-state basis.5
I am committed to lessening the burden on companies who employ remote workers. I support tax policies that simplify the compliance process, while keeping more money in the hands of businesses and their employees – not the government.
Removing Government Barriers
As the line between work and personal lives blurred during the pandemic, employers began to better understand and empathize with the needs of their employees. This – along with federal mandates for some employers – led to temporary changes that better support the family, particularly through expanded paid family leave policies.6
The United States is the only OECD country without a national paid parental leave policy – and one of only three high-income countries without a national family caregiving/medical leave policy.7 Expanding parental leave policies to support the family, while ensuring businesses can continue to thrive, is an important factor in getting the female population back to work. Rather than continue to pursue irrelevant pandemic responses on the private sector, Congress needs to incentivize employers to offer paid family leave and flexible work opportunities.
The average amount of maternity leave in the U.S. is 10 weeks, compared to an average of 18 weeks in other OEDC countries. Only 40% of U.S. employers offer paid maternity leave. With 70% of working women taking some form of maternity leave, the U.S. is behind.8
In addition to caring for newborn or adopted children, women also tend to shoulder the burden for caring for aging and/or sick family members. Yet once again the U.S. is behind when it comes to supporting these working women. For businesses with 500 employees or more, only 31% offer paid family leave options. The numbers only go down from there as the size of the company decreases.9
I am committed to tax credits for businesses that provide paid leave benefits. The Employer Credit for Paid Family and Medical Leave was originally enacted as a part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. This incentive is intended to cover up to 25% of employer costs associated with providing paid family and medical leave. This incentive will expire in 2025.10 However, I am committed to making this tax incentive permanent and reviewing ways to further expand benefits to employers who provide paid family and medical leave.
High Quality Early Learning Care
A Pew Research Study showed that nearly half of workers who left a job in 2021 cited child care issues as the reason they quit.11 When child care centers and schools aren’t open full time and in-person, women are more highly impacted than men. The pandemic made it difficult for parents, especially working moms, to handle childcare responsibilities along with work responsibilities.12
Before the pandemic, high quality early learning cost anywhere from $8,000 – $12,000 per year for one child to attend full day, full year care. In Kansas, childcare is one of the biggest expenses families face, taking up more than 18% of a median family’s income.13 When COVID hit, early learning centers were forced to close, many never to reopen. Now, inflation is raising the costs of everything – including childcare, which is only becoming harder to find. Between 2019 and August 2021, Kansas lost more than 350 childcare programs, leaving a major gap in our state’s child care needs.14
This is bad news for the economy as women contemplate their reentry to the workforce.
The Democrats’ solution to the country’s childcare problem is President Biden’s Build Back Better plan that relies on expensive government interventions, including universal preschool. This plan would have a negative impact on Kansas families by: 1. Taking away the decision-making of parents regarding where they send their children to preschool; and 2. Further increasing federal spending which will only result in higher inflation and even higher child care costs.
We must engage the business community in finding a solution to America’s childcare problem. I applaud employers who currently offer childcare support as a part of their benefits package and will work to incentives more employers to do the same.
Rather than relying on burdensome government intervention, I am committed to working with employers to find the right solutions for families and businesses alike. This includes reviewing tax policies like the Employer-Provided Childcare Credit, that offers employers a tax credit for qualified childcare expenditures,15 and ensuring the incentives are enough to encourage employers to invest in child care options for their employees.
Parents are best positioned to make decisions regarding the early education and care needs for their children. Parents should be empowered to select daycare or preschool options for their children (faith-based or otherwise). For most families, I support using 529 accounts for learning needs from birth to post-secondary. However, under current law early education and daycare costs are not qualified as 529 education-related expenses.16 For low-income and at-risk families, there are other options that help support the education and care decisions of these families.
These options include public-private partnerships as well as shared responsibility between state and federal funding, including Child Care Assistance through the Kansas Department for Children and Families, the Early Childhood Block Program managed by the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund, and Infant and Toddler Services through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
The best thing that can be done right now to help working women is to support programs that increase workplace flexibility, incentivize employers to allow for more employee paid-leave, and finally, improve access to high-quality early learning for American families.
With inflation growing and the cost of everything – including childcare – on the rise, it is now more important than ever that we get women back to work for the health of our economy and the well-being of our families.