Now that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are more than halfway through their first one hundred days in office, their leadership demonstrates what a difference two months makes. In addressing the linked health and economic crises, the Biden administration is tackling both the global Covid-19 pandemic and related pressing domestic challenges.
And yet Biden can do more to combat our interconnected pandemics of race and gender inequality and Covid-19. If this is a New Deal-like moment, the recovery should draw on the positive aspects of that era, but must not repeat its shortcomings (given that President Franklin D. Roosevelt's policies excluded the predominantly Black domestic and farm work sectors from labor protections established in that era).
I coined the term "Color of Covid" in an CNN op-ed published last year to think critically about the race and gender justice paradoxes the pandemic unmasks. Black and Latinx Americans are overrepresented among both front line workers and among the unemployed.
Women, especially of color, face a similar duality -- what I call the "Gender of Covid." On the one hand, women are overrepresented in essential work. And as part of the invisible labor force that keeps the economy afloat, they continue to face deep gender (intersected by race) pay gaps and are underrepresented in management as well as other leadership and more visible roles across the economy.
On the other hand, women have also borne the brunt of job losses. While the American labor force participation of women hit an all-time high by the end of 2019, female employment has plummeted during the pandemic. This past September, there was a huge dip in employment for working moms (with the return of children to online school). Women were hard hit yet again in December, when hospitality (and other sectors where women predominate) were especially impacted by a new wave of lockdowns — disproportionately affecting Black, Latinx, and Asian American women in particular — making the current recession a "shecession."
Biden has already taken substantial steps to advance twin health and economic recoveries.