For a while every conversation I had started with a check-in on COVID status. With family, friends and colleagues we would relay what restrictions were like in each of our cities and what small changes we had been making to try to find silver linings. I was so in tune with my personal experience, but as I had been working from home with no children, I didn’t, and still don’t, feel my own experience can be easily generalized. The last year for me has centered around gaining perspective about my values and how to better align my life to them both personally and professionally. For others it has centered around loss, both of loved ones and careers, or heated political and ethical debate. For me, it felt a bit like the background noise was turned all the way down, making experiences feel more heightened both for better or for worse. As the US started to re-open, I started to get nervous about the volume being turned back up. And I think the concern has been somewhat founded.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women has been devastating globally as gender-based violence rose, women lost work, and the burden of unpaid care work was never greater as children were kept home from school. But at least we were talking about it. There was a recognition of unequal impacts of the pandemic due to gender. Articles were written (and read and widely discussed) about the “She-cession”. One of the key points in these articles is that the impacts will be felt for years to come. I worry that the conversations about how to tackle this and other forms of inequality will start to get deprioritized as other things start to pull time and attention again.
I have been so appreciative of the volunteer support to our program, TechSavvy, which matches mentors with women who want to build their comfort and confidence using the computer. Volunteers were willing to spend an hour per week for the duration of the program developing a relationship with their partner and working through their individual questions. Above and beyond what was called for by the program, volunteers were incredibly flexible with their partners, rescheduling or tailoring curriculum as needed. This agility is exactly what many of our participants who are balancing work and childcare responsibilities need and is often missing in existing programming. In the wake of accelerated digital disruption it has never been more important for women to have in-roads into technology careers. It is my hope that volunteering opportunities like TechSavvy, or the many others that have been developed over the last year to help people in our own communities access virtual work and learning opportunities, will continue to be prioritized.
So the next time someone checks in I can report that things in the US are going better. I just hope to channel some of the energy and optimism that I am feeling now into continued care for others. We really have been through a lot and can only “build back better” together.