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These 5 gender equity events impacted the U.S. economy in 2022. Addressing them in 2023 could unlock a $3.1 trillion opportunity

January 4, 2023, 1:18 PM UTC
Women's workforce participation hasn't recovered since the pandemic–but men want to spend more time with their families.
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When we talk about gender equity, we often forget to talk about the impact it has on the economy. Yes, the pandemic stung women the hardest, for which we (carelessly and relentlessly) blame childcare or the paucity of paid maternity leave.    

 However, we often forget to mention how the pandemic has obliterated decades of progress toward gender equity, thus draining $3.1 trillion from our economy.

We are still crawling back from this 12-figure blow. So before we rush into another year, let’s reflect on five major gender equity events from 2022 and see how each of them cut straight through the economy.

Women’s labor force participation has been stunted

Women’s labor force participation dropped to 57.8% in November, and there are still 1.8 million women missing from the labor force since the start of the pandemic.    

If we brought those 1.8 million women back into the labor force, we could close the worker-to-open-job gap by nearly 23% and temper inflation. If we went even further and sealed off the gender gap in the U.S. labor force completely, our economy would be $1.789 trillion stronger. (Labor force equity is one key factor to unlocking gender equity’s $3.1 trillion potential. We also need equity in other facets of the economy, such as pay equity and educational equity.)

The jobs of the future are leaving women behind

Gender inequity in STEM continues to rage on. Only 1.66% of women university graduates study Information and Communication Technologies compared to 8.22% of men.

We must continue to bridge the gender gap in the jobs of the future, otherwise, women, businesses, and our economy will be left behind. A Pipeline study across 4,161 companies in 29 countries found that for every 10% increase in gender equity, revenues increase by 1 to 2%.

Besides, infusing gender equity in advanced technologies would shield us from the life-altering harms of biased A.I. As it stands, women hold fewer than 33% of all data and A.I. roles and fewer than 15% of all cloud computing jobs. We need a more representative sample of the population to ideate, engineer, and operate the machine learning systems that decide who gets a job interview, who gets a car loan, and who gets a prison sentence.

Pay equity worsens

The gender pay gap widened on average by five cents due to the pandemic. That backsliding comes at a time of record-high inflation, which saw prices rising twice as fast for women’s goods and services as men’s.

These two seismic forces accentuated the sting of the pink tax: not only do women have even less money coming into their wallets this year, but they also have even more money going out.

Prior to the pandemic, gender pay equity represented a $512 billion opportunity for the U.S. economy. At the time, closing the gender pay equity gap would have lifted 50% more working women out of poverty, which would have been a boon for the 70% of the U.S. economy derived from consumer spending and the taxpayers who foot the bill for social welfare recipients.

More men are spending time as fathers

The percentage of first-time fathers who took paid parental leave rose from 10.8% in 1980 to 38.3% in 2020–a 255% increase.

Creating stigma-free pathways for fathers to engage more with their households improves outcomes for everyone. A gender-neutral allocation of household labor would increase output per hour by 5.4%, freeing families up to spend more time together.

Women were underrepresented at climate change talks

Women make up 38% of all national delegates in discussions of perhaps the most pressing global issue: climate change. That’s up from 30% in 2009.

At the Conference of the Party gatherings (COP), women make up only 13% of delegation leaders, up from 10% in 2009.

Gender inequity in this realm harms the planet as much as it harms the people living in it. Women are more likely than men to sign international treaties on climate resolutions, meaning more women in power seats would help mitigate the 18% global GDP write-off that’s expected if climate apathy continues.  

The road ahead

To expedite our journey toward gender equity, we need a three-pronged approach.      

Businesses must erase structural inequity by using advanced technology to de-bias the employee lifecycle. Elected officials should efficiently and effectively allocate resources by applying the gender lens to policy solutions. And the media have a duty to inspire a new vision of what it means to “be a man” or “be a woman” by rewriting stale gender narratives.

It’s not enough to admire or even agonize over the problem of inequity. We are sitting on a $3.1 trillion economic opportunity in the US alone. It’s time to move the needle on gender equity.

Katica Roy is the CEO of Pipeline.

The opinions expressed in Fortune.com commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.

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