Pandemic lockdowns pose a new risk to working moms: the kid-interruption gap

May 28, 2020, 12:39 PM UTC
Aerial View Of Mother Working In Office At Home With Daughter
An aerial view of a mother working on a laptop in her office at hoe with her young daughter string on her lap.
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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! AMD’s Lisa Su tops a new list of highest-paid CEOs, Cecile Richards talks to Fortune about making sure women can vote safely in November, and we explore more data about mothers in the pandemic. Enjoy your Thursday.

– Risks of the kid-interruption gap. A new survey in the U.K. puts in stark relief the toll the pandemic is taking on mothers: Women with kids are 47% more likely than men with children to have permanently lost or quit their jobs since February. They are 14% more likely to have been furloughed.

All told, “mothers in two-parent households are only doing, on average, a third of the uninterrupted paid-work hours of fathers. Before lockdown, mothers did around 60% of the uninterrupted work hours of fathers,” according to the study of 3,500 families with two opposite-sex parents by Institute for Fiscal Studies and the UCL Institute of Education.

The burden on mothers extends beyond job losses and reduced hours. Mothers are shouldering the bulk of the time commitment of new duties related to childcare and housework. They’re dedicating 10.3 hours every day to looking after the kids—2.3 hours more than fathers. Dads are spending more time on such activities generally—double the hours they spent on childcare in 2014-2015, in fact—yet men matched women’s household output only in families where the mother had kept her job and the father had lost his.

The study also points to nuances of parents’ new at-home existence that are easily overlooked. It reveals, for instance, a sort of child-interruption gap: Moms are far more likely than dads to be interrupted during their paid working hours. Nearly half—47%—of mothers’ working hours are split between professional duties and other activities like childcare. That figure is 30% for fathers.

Those kid cameos on Zoom are cute, but the study warns that moms’ multitasking is a risk when “focused work time is important for performance.” The mom-dad imbalance on this front could “further [increase] the gender wage gap among parents.”

These statistics may not come as a surprise to parents currently homeschooling while working—or in worse cases, homeschooling while looking for a job—but they underscore how vital childcare is as nations emerge from shutdowns and economies look to recover. There will be no “normal” without reopened daycare centers and schools.

Claire Zillman

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


- Big bucks. For the first time since the AP began its executive pay survey nine years ago, a female chief executive tops the nationwide ranking: Advanced Micro Devices CEO Lisa Su earned $58.5 million in 2019. Fortune

- Tennis match. And speaking of pay, the world of sports has a new top earner too. Tennis star Naomi Osaka passed Serena Williams as the highest-earning female athlete. Since June 2019, Osaka took in $37.4 million to Williams's $36 million. Forbes

- Get out the vote. Cecile Richards, co-founder of Supermajority and former president of Planned Parenthood, is working to make sure women can vote safely in November. She talked to Fortune about the challenges facing women at the ballot box, including women's greater concern, compared to men's, about safety during the coronavirus pandemic: Fortune

- Historic run. Jennifer Carroll Foy is fighting to become the first black female governor in the U.S. (the 'first' that Stacey Abrams came close to achieving). The Virginia state delegate announced her campaign yesterday. She's the first black woman to run for statewide office in Virginia, and her resume includes pushing the state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment earlier this year. Elle

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: New York Public Radio hired Chilewich chief digital officer Ayesha Ahmad as CMO. 


- Huawei gets a no. Chinese tech giant Huawei lost its fight yesterday to end extradition proceedings for CFO Meng Wanzhou. Meng will remain under house arrest in Canada, instead of returning to China as the company and country had fought for. Bloomberg

- Entertainment action. Actress Gabrielle Union in a Variety cover story gave her first in-depth interview about her firing from America's Got Talent. "My goal is real change—and not just on this show but for the larger parent company," Union says about her efforts to improve the NBC show's workplace. In related news: Time's Up released a guide for how businesses can lead with equity and inclusion in mind during a crisis. 

- Keeping it original. Yesterday's launch of HBO Max was shepherded by Sarah Aubrey, head of original programming for the new streaming service. She is counting on experienced filmmakers to be the first to resume production as the entertainment industry emerges from its shutdown: "You need your 10,000 hours to manage this kind of situation," she says. New York Times


Amid the pandemic, is Hong Kong facing a different kind of death? The New Yorker

How women really feel about voting for Joe Biden InStyle

I was seven months pregnant in prison. Then COVID-19 hit The Cut


"He thought it might get a laugh. It didn’t."

-Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on her husband's "failed attempt at humor," asking if he could get their boat moved into the water sooner because he was married to the governor

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