Equity and Opportunity

America's motherhood crisis is at a tipping point: "We're not taking it anymore," says Reshma Saujani

Gabriella Boresi, CNBC intern
Key Points
  • The Marshall Plan for Moms is calling for mothers to receive basic income payments, as well as affordable child care and paid family leave.  
  • Founded by Reshma Saujani, who created Girls Who Code, it calls upon the Biden administration to help support mothers in their unseen, and unpaid labors.  
Caregiver Crisis: A Bold Plan to Get Women Back to Work with Girls Who Code's Reshma Saujani at CNBC Inclusion Forum
Caregiver Crisis: A Bold Plan to Get Women Back to Work with Girls Who Code's Reshma Saujani at CNBC Inclusion Forum

Reshma Saujani created Girls Who Code to crack the gender gap in technology. Now, she has committed to another major gender gap in need of a societal fix: parental labor.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to a sharp reversal in gains that women made in the labor force over decades. If there is a silver lining, it also has shined a light on the work women have always done as mothers, but which the economy did not value. Saujani says it's time for a reckoning when it comes to placing the right economic value on motherhood.

"Today we find ourselves as nannies, tech support, doing the cooking and cleaning, all the while trying to maintain full-time jobs and we are done because we are getting crushed. So, we need a 360-plan, a Marshall Plan for Moms, to get us back to work," Saujani told CNBC at its Inclusion in Action event on Thursday.

The public policy components that need to be made permanent include basic income payments to mothers — an idea partially reflected in the Child Tax Credit included in the most recent stimulus legislation — as well as affordable child care, paid parental leave, and retraining of mothers who have lost their jobs, "jobs that are simply not coming back," Saujani said. 

She said the Child Tax Credit included in the stimulus plan should only be a downpayment on permanent policy options favored by the Marshall Plans for Moms. 

We have an opportunity again to build it back better and to ask for all of it.

The Marshall Plan for Moms came about as a response to the high number of mothers dropping from the workforce over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Center for American Progress, women have lost a net of 5.4 million jobs during the recession — it has been dubbed a 'shecession' — which is nearly 1 million more job losses than men. With having to accommodate remote-learning and having their kids home full-time, parents have had an increase in household responsibilities, most of which fall upon mothers. Research has shown that for every three mothers that leave the workforce, only one father leaves. 

Saujani wants mothers to demand appreciation and value for their hours of unpaid labor from both the corporate world and the government.

The labor market losses experienced by working women have been referred to by President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris as a national emergency. 

Raujani said her idea for a $2,400 monthly direct payment was based on the Covid stimulus payment, but she said the public policy goal is much broader. "What we want is for President Biden to put together a task force to look at the economic recovery of mothers and to figure out what we [mothers] need to get back to work."

Biden's platform as a presidential candidate included caregiving as a critical component of building a better national infrastructure. 

"We're not taking it anymore," Saujani said. "We have an opportunity again to build it back better and to ask for all of it. Ask for basic payments, demand paid leave, demand affordable child care, demand retraining, ensure that when we come back to companies, that we have flexibility and remote opportunities, that we don't have the motherhood penalty, that we have more on-ramps for mothers. We have plenty of off-ramps, but not a lot of on-ramps."

 —By Gabriella Boresi, CNBC intern