ARCHIVE: Women’s History Month: Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope
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By Tisha Lighty-Cain, FSIS Women’s Special Emphasis Program Manager
Every March, the history of women is nationally honored and directs our attention to the many contributions of women to the world. This year’s theme, Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope, pays tribute to the sacrifices many women have made to assist and heal their communities while encouraging women’s dreams of the future.
Throughout history, women have often been portrayed as the backbone of the household, family life and the community as well as recognized as healers, nurturers and caretakers. According to Michigan State University Extension (2017), 66 percent of caregivers for family and friends are women.
Focusing specifically on healing, 80 percent of healthcare workers and workers who provide social assistance, including childcare and emergency services, are women. Considering the number of women in healthcare and caregiving, it is no wonder that women have been particularly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, McKinsey & Co. stated in an article how the unemployment rate of women increased tremendously at the early start of the pandemic. From February to April 2020, women’s employment rate fell approximately 17.9 percent. While women made up 39 percent of global employment, they accounted for 54 percent of overall job losses. Reasons for the disproportional impact were due to the fact that female jobs were 19 percent more at risk than male jobs, simply because women were disproportionately represented in sectors adversely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.
One of the reasons for the decrease in women’s employment was due to the increase of women’s burden of unpaid care (i.e., cleaning, childcare, caring for elderly). Fortunately, the women’s employment rate has increased recently due to the allowance of more flexibility (e.g., working remotely, better work-life balance, flexible work hours) and the extensive increases in pay, especially in the healthcare fields. In 2019, the U.S. women’s employment rate was at 55.4 percent; in 2020 it dropped to 51.5 percent; and has since risen to 53.2 during 2021 (Statista).
At FSIS, women have played a significant role in supporting the Agency’s public health mission, despite the challenges from the pandemic. Women demonstrated resilience and ability to adapt as needed. As of fiscal year 2021, women comprised over 47 percent (4,263 employees) of FSIS’ permanent workforce, and they are an asset to the Agency.
Moving forward, we must continue to provide healing and promote hope. As the National Women’s History Alliance states, “Healing is the personal experience of transcending suffering and transforming it to wholeness.” Hope is a feeling of expectation, desire and trust. As the FSIS Special Emphasis Program Manager for women, I know with assurance that we, FSIS, will continue to ensure public health, while, at the same time, we encourage and support the achievements of the women in the Agency.
Tisha Lighty-Cain is the FSIS Women’s Special Emphasis Program Manager and a Consumer Safety Inspector at Est. 9424 in Reading, Pennsylvania. She is also the EEOAC Coordinator for the Philadelphia District.