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DENVER (KDVR) — The pandemic has presented many challenges to working parents, but women have been hit particularly hard. A new report is sounding the alarm about women leaving the workforce.  

Two non-partisan groups have been studying this issue for the past year. Common Sense Institute and Executives Partnering to Invest in Children noticed the trend that women were not returning to the work force as quickly as men. They have some ideas that could help. 

President and CEO of Common Sense Institute, Kristin Strohm said, “Economists across the nation and in Colorado have dubbed it the ‘she’-cession.” 

Common Sense Institute is a non-partisan research organization dedicated to the protection and promotion of Colorado’s economy.  

“Women have had to leave the work force. The working mother is being disproportionately impacted and it’s a siren call to elected leaders that we need to do something, or our economy is never going to recover. I’m a mom of four and there’s been challenges with this pandemic,” Strohm said.

“A lot of the virtual learning issues tend to fall on the mom in the home. As a working mother, it’s a delicate balance. It’s hard to work full time while also provide learning opportunities to child at home or watch your children if there are not options.” 

Nicole Riehl is President and CEO of Executives Partnering to Invest in Children, a non-partisan group of prestigious business executives partnering to serve as the business community’s non-partisan voice for early childhood.

“Speaking as someone who has a first grader, who has been virtually learning for a good portion of the year, it’s a lot to juggle. It’s really difficult to manage a full-time job and manage virtual learning and supporting your child at home,” Riehl said.

Their report found the labor force participation rate for women dropped from 63% in February, to 54% in May, the lowest point in 2020, indicating 175,000 fewer women in the labor force. While the overall female participation rate recovered through the end of the year, the December labor force participation rate for Colorado mothers remained 6% below the February 2020 level of 79%.

“That is 20,000 Colorado working moms, enough to fill Ball arena that are now not even looking for work,” Strohm said.

According to the report, mothers were nearly twice as likely to have reduced work hours; 17% compared to 9% of fathers.

“If we don’t get women back to work, the economy is not going to recover, and we will lose generation of progress for working women,” Strohm said.

Both groups say more affordable, quality childcare is part of the solution. Some of their recommendations include providing incentives for commercial building owners to lease space to childcare businesses, incentives for employers to invest in family friendly childcare solutions, and for those that offer childcare expense stipends.

“Part of what has changed this conversation is this pandemic has revealed childcare is an essential piece of our economic infrastructure just like roads and bridges and communication networks. we need a system of childcare that is accessible and affordable to families to support our workforce,” Riehl said.

They say they were happy to hear Governor Polis spend about a minute in his state of the state address yesterday talking about childcare and women in the workforce. They expect several bills to be introduced during this legislative session.