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Balancing the Burden of Care: Impact of Policies on Productivity

Date & Time

Mar. 22, 2018
10:30am – 12:00pm ET


6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center


Let's continue the conversation. Please see EVENT SUMMARY and PODCAST from the recent Balancing the Burden of Care: Impact of Policies on Productivity event published on New Security Beat.

The burden of care--the time, energy, and cost of caring for other people--is growing, and it often disproportionately affects the financial, physical, and mental well-being of women. In addition, this burden has negative consequences on the health and productivity of workers, impacting business productivity, profits, and economic growth. Policies that distribute the burden of care equally have the potential to greatly shape women's health, empower them economically, and improve business performance.

Join the Wilson Center and EMD Serono on March 22 for a panel discussion with private sector and policy leaders on identifying policies that can alleviate the health impacts on caregivers, and create equitable work environments where talented women and men can rise and thrive, without sacrificing their health.

Join the conversation on Twitter by following @NewSecurityBeat and find related coverage on our blog at

Selected Quotes

Dr. Belén Garijo, CEO Healthcare, Member of the Executive Board, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

"We are training [Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany’s] senior leaders today on unconscious bias, which is one of the hardest things that we definitely identified, and we are working very closely with the task force to address some of the strategic topics, including mentoring, sponsorship, and most importantly for females, flexible working schedules. And I can tell you that the impact of this will not be felt overnight. It’s going to take time, it’s going to take effort, it’s going to take very strong determination, and a lot of top-down sponsorship."

"If I say 217 years, I’m sure you would recognize that this is coming from the World Economic Forum “Global Gender Gap” report, and it refers to the number of years that it will take until women have equal pay and representation in the workplace."

"We also understand that a healthy society requires much more than medicines. So we are investing efforts and resources hoping to improve the health outcomes of women all around the world, from awareness to education, access to healthcare, and we are advocating for policies that can advance productivity and most importantly advance equity."

Gwen K. Young, Director, Women in Public Service Project

"64.2% of women with children are in the workforce, and 58% of those women in the workforce have children under 1. And the stats that we're collecting today often—and we have a data project at the project I work with focus on people with kids—they don't often capture people that have obligations at home or with family members for other reasons."

"We also talked about the role of strong leadership, the role of women, and just leaders who understand this and who make diversity inclusion a priority which is not easy. It's not easy to make that a priority."

"What I think is so nice about this panel is that everybody on this panel is working together and understanding the importance of partnerships and alliances."

Gary Barker, President and Chief Executive Officer, Promundo

"We still have a very unconscious bias that men are providers, and that we're bumbling, not very capable, we can walk away from caregiving, we don't do the psychological burden of the caregiving. There's a lot of assumptions that we as men won't do it. Those assumptions live in men's heads, they live in women's heads, and they live in employers’ heads. You know, ‘if he takes time off just how serious have a worker is he.’ So men do worry, ‘if I walk away from it, if I take some time off, will I be seen as that worker who's going to climb in his career.’ As long as men's incomes continue to be that 20 to 22% higher than women's, families faced with the decision will say ‘well it said she'll take the time off and he'll stay in the workplace.’ So I think the shift has got to be policy, it's got to be changing norms."

"I do think there's been a poverty of imagination. No country in the world has a policy that says ‘we believe men can do 50% of the care work’ . . . Boys should be caregivers and providers, girls should be caregivers and providers. I'd like to see us get to that kind of collective imagination."

"One challenge has been that [institutions, countries, and researchers] don't collect standardized data on how much men participate in caregiving. We've got good time-use studies—we did an analysis of a hundred of those for the 2017 [State of the World’s Fathers] report, but we don't put into national statistics gathering how much men do of the caregiving. We have a huge amount of data here and in parts of Western Europe, but if you don't count it, it doesn't really count. I don't have some numbers that you can look toward to say are we pushing men along."

Stacey D. Stewart, President, March of Dimes

"[The U.S.] government really provides very little support or incentives to address the needs that families have. Especially if the family has this burden of a baby that's born too sick and too soon, So often what happens to a family where that happens a baby may have to be in the neonatal intensive care unit for days, weeks, sometimes months. The financial burden on that family is tremendous. It's often the woman who bears the burden of caregiving in that during that time. She may have to discontinue work which then exacerbates the financial burden. . . We know that without the help of Medicaid for any of these families, many of these families . . . would be faced with bankruptcy."

"We know that in this country and around the world—especially in this country—we have tremendous health disparities. The issue of premature birth affects women of color many more times over than as compared to other women. African-American women are 50% more likely to have a baby born too sick and too soon. Women of color generally have babies that are born premature. That means that those babies will then have special needs. That means those families then have special financial burdens, and many of those families are the families least able to bear those kinds of financial burdens. And so one of the things that we're very concerned about in this, is that we make sure that all women and all families have the supports that they need. But we know that it that in some communities those supports are even more important than they are in other communities."

"It is disturbing to me often when there are rooms full of men who then make decisions about the healthcare needs for us, or me, or women that look like me. When we have more women in those rooms we get a more diverse conversation and I think we get better outcomes. I also think when you have more Beléns in the world you get better outcomes in industry as well. I think when there are women running companies you often find at the board level—and there's been research to show this—and at the CEO level, you find many of these policies being put in place that are more supportive of family, and women, and child care, and pregnancy, and motherhood, and working moms. Maybe as there are more women CEOs, maybe even the perception of men as child care providers will change."

C. Grace Whiting, President and Chief Executive Officer, National Alliance for Caregiving

"When we've done our nationally representative research with AARP, we found that about 60% of caregivers for someone who's ill or who has a disability are women, and that your typical caregiver is usually a 49 year old woman caring for an older relative because of a long-term health condition or need. And that's sort of what we think of when we think of caregiving. But that said I think it's important to note that our conception of gender roles is changing. When you break down America’s caregivers by cohort you can see in that 18 to 34 group, men and women are equally as likely to be caregivers. I think it speaks to this momentum we're seeing about the way men think about family, and the way we think as a society about caring for someone, whether that should be gendered work or whether that's something that we're just all in it together."

"I was watching that movie with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, “9 to 5,” where women take over the workplace. It’s a great movie, if you haven’t seen it. But at the end of the movie they've won their struggle and they're walking through the new-and-improved workplace, and Jane Fonda's saying ‘we have flex time, and we've got childcare on-site, and look at all these improvements we made!’ And when I was watching this film, which is from the 80s, I thought to myself ‘very little has changed in the last 30 years,’ because we're putting forward a lot of these same policies."

"Once we get to [a place] where we see a little bit of that equity, I think we need to remember there's not one size that fits all. It's more about the person at the top understanding the value of diversity and inclusion, and setting that tone for the rest of the people under their leadership."


Hosted By

Maternal Health Initiative

Life and health are the most basic human rights, yet disparities between and within countries continue to grow. No single solution or institution can address the variety of health concerns the world faces. By leveraging, building on, and coordinating the Wilson Center’s strong regional and cross-cutting programming, the Maternal Health Initiative (MHI) promotes dialogue and understanding among practitioners, scholars, community leaders, and policymakers.  Read more

Global Women's Leadership Initiative

The Global Women’s Leadership Initiative has hosted the Women in Public Service Project at the Wilson Center since June, 2012. The Women in Public Service Project will accelerate global progress towards women’s equal participation in policy and political leadership to create more dynamic and inclusive institutions that leverage the full potential of the world’s population to change the way global solutions are forged.  Read more

Global Risk and Resilience Program

The Global Risk and Resilience Program (GRRP) seeks to support the development of inclusive, resilient networks in local communities facing global change. By providing a platform for sharing lessons, mapping knowledge, and linking people and ideas, GRRP and its affiliated programs empower policymakers, practitioners, and community members to participate in the global dialogue on sustainability and resilience. Empowered communities are better able to develop flexible, diverse, and equitable networks of resilience that can improve their health, preserve their natural resources, and build peace between people in a changing world.  Read more

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