The COVID pandemic brought tragedy and struggle, but this massive disruption to modern life also gave us a window into a more flexible, innovative and creative future for working people and homemakers alike—specifically women seeking more options for work-life balance.
Prior to 2020, teleworking was certainly possible, but few employers preferred it. According to Pew Research, only 7% of private-industry workers and 4% of state and local employees had access to telework. Those numbers skyrocketed to a high of 70% during the pandemic’s worst months. Even though some are now returning to the office, many will remain at home — and that’s a positive development for those seeking flexibility and convenience. Workplaces that shied away from online communication are now pros at Zoom (which showed 191% growth in the last quarter alone), Microsoft Teams, Slack channels and other modes of communication.
While physical jobs, like construction or restaurant serving, cannot be done remotely—most white-collar, professional jobs can. This opens up new options for women who are interested in more part-time, flexible schedules that work for them. Data shows that women prefer flexibility as a benefit—even over higher pay. The same can’t be said for men.
Technology and Freedom for Women
It reflects a historical trend in which technological innovation lent more freedom to women. For example, when automatic dishwashers became mainstream in the 1970s, it cut back on time spent cleaning. The same goes for electric washers and dryers, microwaves and even refrigerators, which became more common in the 1940s. Out of necessity and cultural norms, women were generally the caretakers of the home, while their husbands went out to work. Today, even though so many women do work outside the home, they still bear the brunt of housekeeping and childcare.
Still, it’s hard to believe that people still alive today lived without these technologies we take for granted. It’s incredible to see what these innovations have brought to the lives of women, and to witness technological trends that continue to improve their lives now. This is key. If we want to help working women and moms, we must prioritize innovation.
Doing so requires policies that slash regulations, empower the free market and incentivize capitalism. Those on the Left may criticize such policies for potentially harming the environment and contributing to climate change. In reality, the opposite is true. In C3 Solutions recent, in-depth research paper, “Free Economies are Clean Economies,” we found that the more free a country is, the higher they rank on the environmental index. Coincidentally, the more free a country is, the more able they are to produce necessary technologies and innovations to fuel the next generation.
Absent aggressive government intervention and overregulation, markets and subsequent innovations can flourish. Such developments lead to cleaner, more efficient technologies, more resilient infrastructure and more freedom and income for individuals seeking to improve their lives.
Benefits for All Moms
For women, this is an especially large boon, as 35 million of them were working mothers in 2019 and they are 28% more likely to experience burnout than fathers. In a culture that seeks to uplift women and help working moms specifically, it makes sense to incorporate data showing the triplet benefit of innovation, earthcare and flexibility.
Recently, products such as the digital voice assistants, online meal delivery kits like Hello Fresh and high-power breast pumps that are quiet, efficient and comfortable have helped bring moms a little more ease to the work-life balance area. Other unique inventions, such as the Snoo Smart Bassinet, the Mamava portable lactation station and the Owlet smart sock have eased the stress of sleeping and hungry babies, providing a little extra time for work, rest or play.
Other innovative services have also popped up. Businesses such as Werk Labs, a new kind of job board created in effort to partner with businesses who want to work with women seeking flexible schedules. Additionally, we regularly see inventions to make things like birth control and period management easier. Even smart watches, online fitness classes and time-tracking apps have helped women strategically divide and conquer their busy days in a way that suits their needs and schedules.
Prioritizing Innovation Now
Sadly, 3 million women left the workforce in 2020 due to the pandemic. That’s why it’s important we begin prioritizing these kinds of options and flexibility now that life is getting back to normal. Women who want to work should be able to work. And those who are working at home as caregivers also deserve the best innovation and technology can offer them. While Left and Right often disagree on the best policies to care for the environment, it’s hard to argue with data showing freedom equals cleanliness and empowerment for all people.
As a working mom of two small children, I couldn’t be more grateful for all that technology has brought to my life. May these benefits and options continue to flourish and improve the lives of many women to come.