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Celebrating Caregivers on International Women's Day

Sheila in Waltham, MA
March 1, 2018

As we applaud the gains of trailblazing women, let us appropriately value the important role caregivers play in our homes, the economy and our global society. 

Photo by Sue Zeng on Unsplash

In the early 1900’s, the International Women’s Conference designated March 8 as International Women's Day to celebrate the women’s rights movement. In recent decades, this day has become a time to celebrate women’s achievements around the globe and launch a call to action for continued progress towards gender equality.

At times, we applaud the gains trailblazing women have made without celebrating the other women, often unseen, who made that success possible. Millions of women (me among them) have depended and still depend upon the legion of caregivers who dedicate their lives to tending to our loved ones’ most intimate needs and laying a foundation of lifelong learning for our children—all so that we can pursue our professional goals. And that caregiver is overwhelmingly likely to be a woman herself, who has her own obligations at home and yet spends her day taking care of another family. 

To fully live up to the spirit of International Women’s Day, we must be equally as vocal in celebrating and supporting the vital and direct contributions that our caregivers make to society and our economy. Far from being an occupation on the margins, care is a thriving industry that is exponentially growing at 5x time the average rate in the U.S.; those that work in the caregiving industry are drivers of the economy. And our collective need for skilled caregivers is only expected to increase, as countries and families worldwide grapple with the needs of a rapidly ageing society, and more professional caregivers are needed to help care for our elderly loved ones with dignity and patience.

Further, the devotion and skills of the world’s caregivers are the foundation for the professional and economic gains that women have made en masse around the world and keep the American economy humming. Women still list family care obligations as the number one obstacle to working outside the home as much as they would like. And creating the care infrastructure that would allow women to work as much as men would add $28 trillion to our global economy, according to a recent McKinsey study. Simply put, caregivers bridge that gap for our society and economy, and create the luxury of choice for women and families worldwide. 

So how do we really champion the advancements that women have made in the workplace and in society and pave the way for a brighter future for all women? By appropriately valuing the important role that caregivers (largely women) play in our homes, the economy and our global society, and professionalizing the caregiving industry. And how do we do that? By working to ensure that caregivers get the same benefits and protections that their clients can only receive because care makes their work possible. These incredibly valuable members of our society deserve fair and above-board pay, clear expectations about the scope of their roles, and paid time off for the necessary work they do in our homes.

I am reminded by the sage words of Helen Keller: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Let’s advance the cause of all women, by honoring the caregivers who make so many women's achievements possible by giving them our voice, our support and our respect today, on International Women’s Day, and every day.

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