Elizabeth Fairchild
(202) 861-1270


Washington, DC — Today, Business Forward issued a report, The Role of Paid Leave in Closing the Gender Gap. The report explores how a federal family and medical leave program like the one proposed by President Biden could help women in the workforce get back on track in the wake of COVID-19.

Women lag behind men both in compensation and in representation in leadership roles. Women who work full-time earn only 82% of what their male counterparts earn and they make up 70% of workers at lowest paying jobs, but only account for 20% of C-Suite executives. For Black and Hispanic women who face additional obstacles in the workplace, the gaps are larger. 

These gaps exist, in part, because responsibilities outside of work disproportionately fall on women. They take on a “second shift” at home by spending more time than men, on average, caring for family members and doing household chores. Managing home responsibilities alongside work can make it even more difficult for women to advance their careers — or even stay in the workforce.

“When COVID-19 closed schools and daycare centers, women were the first to stay home,” said Liz Fairchild, Executive Director of Business Forward. Even though there are more men than women in the workforce, women accounted for more than half of the workers who dropped out of the workforce during the pandemic. “Getting them back into the workforce is critical to our economic recovery.” 

If the United States started making investments right now in education, family planning, maternal health, and correcting the burden of unpaid care work related to childcare and caring for the elderly, the U.S. economy could be $2.4 trillion larger by 2030.

A national paid leave program, like the one proposed in the American Families Plan, would help women stay in and re-enter the workforce. Studies show that paid family leave increases the likelihood women will return to work after taking leave; Women who take paid family leave after giving birth are 40% more likely to return to work than those without the benefit. “The cost of paid leave is covered by the government, so families retain their income and employers retain their workers. This is particularly important for small businesses that may not have the capital to provide paid leave like many large employers do,” said Fairchild.

To learn more about paid leave download the report and read our blog Why a National Paid Leave Policy is Good for Business.

To share how a national paid leave policy would affect your business, please fill out this form.



The Business Forward Foundation is an independent research and education organization that takes a business-minded look at policy issues affecting America’s economic competitiveness. Our work combines insights and advice from business leaders across the country with rigorous policy analysis. Through white papers, issue briefs, conference calls, and other events, we educate policy makers and the public about climate change, immigration reform, infrastructure investment, the future of work, and other critical issues.