HomeLearning CenterNo Recession? Thank Women

No Recession? Thank Women

Originally published by Joanne Lipman for Time

Remote work allowed Alyson Velasquez to juggle her demanding roles as a Wells Fargo talent recruiter and as mother of two young children, including a son with special needs. The flexibility made sense both for her job, working with hiring managers across the country, and for her kids, ensuring she would be available for medical appointments and pickups. Remote work “is wonderful for working moms,” she says.

Women like Velasquez have flooded into the fulltime workplace over the past few years, spurred by newly flexible options combined with the rollback of pandemic-era school and daycare restrictions. The percentage of “prime age” working women—defined as ages 25 to 54—set a record in 2023, with moms of very young children leading the way.

These women have become the economy’s secret weapon—and one of the reasons why the recession that just about everyone predicted hasn’t happened. Despite almost two straight years of dire forecasts, unemployment remains low, consumer spending has held steady, and productivity is on the rise. Just last week (feb 20), the Conference Board, which had been warning of a recession since July 2022, finally gave up and abandoned its call. “The strong labor force participation of women workers and the strength of the economy are intertwined,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told me in a recent email exchange. She attributes the employment gains for women in part to the child tax credit and other initiatives. “But also important is the increased flexibility of the workplace that came as a result of the pandemic,” she said.

That flexibility has been key for women like Laura Podesta, who left her role as a CBS television correspondent in 2022, when her sons were three and one. Her long overnight hours in the studio, along with frequent travel, “made me start to reassess what I was committing to,” she says. She pivoted to a hybrid position, overseeing communications for Fiverr, a freelance platform. “I decided to make the move in large part so I could work from home part of the week,” she says.

Flexibility helps corporate bottom lines, too, because employees are less likely to quit, recent research suggests. Replacing just one employee can cost twice as much as their salary, after factoring in recruiting and training costs, according to Gallup. Valerie Danna, a Seattle mother of five who spent years as a communications and human resources executive at companies including Starbucks, today spends part-time coaching other women who are transitioning in their careers. “Some want to switch companies…and some are looking to start their own,” she says. “But they all want hybrid.” By providing flexibility, she says, companies “retain the talent longer, which saves the company money.”

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