The coronavirus pandemic has exposed and exacerbated inequities in the economy — particularly, inequities that disproportionately harm women, including a lack of access to child care, paid family and medical leave, affordable housing, affordable prescription drugs, and more. As a result, women’s participation in the workforce is at its lowest level since 1988.

Not only are investments that promote equity for women extremely important to make life more affordable for women and allow them to fully participate in the workforce, they are also critical to the success of American businesses and the long-term growth of the economy.

Here are the economic issues that disproportionately harm women, which the Build Back Better Act’s investments would help to solve:


Mothers have disproportionately been forced to leave the paid work force because of unaffordable child care.

  • Mothers are 40 percent more likely than fathers to report that they have felt the negative impact of child care issues on their careers.
  • One out of four women who reported becoming unemployed during the pandemic said it was because of a lack of child care — twice the rate among men.
  • Expanding access to affordable, quality child care to all who need it would increase the number of women with young children working full-time/full-year by about 17 percent, and by about 31 percent for women without any college degree, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
  • A 2% GDP investment in the care industry has the potential to reduce the gender gap in employment by half in the United States.


“Public investment in care would allow millions of family caregivers who have left the labor market, reduced their hours, or lost their jobs in 2020 to return to work, strengthening overall economic activity and ensuring that a generation of women’s labor market gains do not disappear.” 

Time’s Up


Lack of paid family and medical leave has disproportionately harmed women, forcing them to choose between their health and their income.

  • 48% of women, compared with 35% of men, say they would very likely face serious financial hardship if they had to take unpaid leave.
  • Women with access to paid leave are 40 percent more likely to return to work after giving birth than those without access to leave.
  • Mothers leaving the labor force or reducing work hours in order to assume caretaking responsibilities costs $64.5 billion per year in lost wages and economic activity.
  • Family and medical leave programs will strengthen and solidify our economic growth. Mothers are 20-50% less likely to separate from the labor force five years after giving birth if they have access to paid leave.


“By failing to provide paid family and medical leave, we’re forcing women to make impossible choices like caring for a loved one or keeping their job. This is especially true for low-wage women and women of color. Undervaluing these women as key assets is morally wrong and undermines our nation’s economic future.” 

Center for Law and Social Policy


Women take on more student debt than men and have a harder time paying it off because of the gender wage gap.

  • Women hold nearly two-thirds of all outstanding student loans.
  • Even before the pandemic, women who graduated with a bachelor’s degree expected to earn an average of $35,338 their first year out of college — 81% of what men expected to earn.
  • Women — who borrow an average of $31,276 — not only take on more debt than men, who borrow an average of $29,270, but also have a harder time paying it off because of lower earnings When women graduate, loan payments collide with the gender pay gap, putting a tight squeeze on women’s budgets and increasing the financial impact of student loans exponentially.


Women are disproportionately affected by climate change and extreme weather disasters.

  • 80 percent of people displaced by climate change are women, who are disproportionately affected by climate change across the globe — including in the United States.
  • Experts estimate that two‑thirds of jobs lost after Hurricane Katrina were lost by women, while 83 percent of single mothers were unable to return home for a full two years after the storm.


Women are disproportionately renters, live in affordable housing, and face increased risk of becoming severely cost-burdened by housing.

  • It’s estimated that 75 percent of those living in affordable housing are women.
  • Nearly half (45%) of female renter households are cost-burdened, spending more than 30% of their income on housing. This compares to 36% such male renter households. 
  • It’s estimated that 84% of homeless families are headed by women.


​​Women are disproportionately affected by the high cost of prescription drugs, with many reporting leaving a prescription unfilled or rationing doses because of cost.