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Women's labor force participation hits 33-year low

MomUp CEO, Michelle Keefe, joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss why the women's labor force participation hit a 33-year low.

Video Transcript


SEANA SMITH: The COVID pandemic has forced mothers out of the workforce. As of right now, more than two million mothers, women, have left the workforce in the past year. We want to talk about how to address this. And for that, we want to bring in Michelle Keefe. She's the CEO of MomUp. And Michelle, it's great to speak with you this afternoon. This is an issue that we've talked about in the past. It's a huge issue facing the country right now. What are the best ways-- how do we address this?

MICHELLE KEEFE: Well, I think it's amazing that you're addressing it on Yahoo Finance because it really is a-- it's a national problem. It's an economic problem. It's affecting all of us. And in order to move forward, we really need to take a step back and see what have we learned from this pandemic. And what we've seen is that all of these problems existed beforehand. These are not new issues. It's just that they've been magnified by this crisis.

And so, as companies start moving forward and start thinking, how can we best support families, how can we best support and retain women in our companies, they really need to start thinking about strategies to put in place, so that if something like this were to ever happen again, which these things happen and maybe it won't be as dramatic as COVID, but we live on a small planet. And there's going to be another crisis. What kind of strategies can companies put into place to better support families-- in this case, mothers--


MICHELLE KEEFE: --so that-- yes.

ADAM SHAPIRO: You know, I want to believe that companies do put the interests of their employees and families first and-- but they don't. A lot of companies don't because profit and shareholders are also important. But with people working from home and the world after the pandemic looking like it's going to be some kind of hybrid of work from home and office, the lack of organization at the office, of large groups of people, will this work against mothers to get those kinds of benefits that companies might need to offer to retain talent? Does it work against them with us being fractionalized when working from home?

MICHELLE KEEFE: I mean, I think in terms of remote work, there's a lot of advantages to it. And I think at this point, moving forward, we're going to find that it's sort of a table stakes perk for companies to offer because so many companies, moving forward, will be going remote, like you said, or have some sort of hybrid model. I think, in many ways, remote work is great for working mothers.

And eventually, when our child care goes back to normal and kids can go back to school, we won't have this insane situation of trying to manage our children and working at the same time. So hopefully, you know, as we progress past COVID, we'll find that working remote benefits everybody and can be hugely beneficial cost savings for companies and even for families, as well as timesaving. It's just if it's implemented properly.

The biggest challenge with remote work is setting boundaries. And if companies have a corporate culture that really appreciates the fact that they do have working parents, it's making sure that people don't always have to feel like they're always on. And I think that's a real top-down approach. Are managers, employers setting a good example of-- setting boundaries so that their people aren't expected to respond to an email at 11 o'clock at night or be in a Zoom meeting at 5:30 when things are challenging at home.

SEANA SMITH: Michelle, following up on that, though, because I know you have actually connected organizations with women who are looking for work, women maybe who have previously dropped out of the workforce. When you have the connection that matches up some of your success stories, what was behind that success? I mean, what was the company looking for, and what was that person looking for who was looking for employment?

MICHELLE KEEFE: So how we explain is that we do a vetting process on both sides. So as much as we vet a candidate to make sure that they're a right fit, we vet a company as well. So the companies we work with, we know are supportive of our mission and making sure that they understand that these are families. They want to feel like they're supported. They want empathetic leadership.

And so, we really dig into the corporate culture of the companies that we work with so that we're not matching people with a company that expects you to be in the office 60 hours a week with someone who doesn't necessarily want that. There are people in our network, women who we work with, that do want full-time opportunities at companies that may be fast-paced and expected to be on all the time. But we wouldn't connect that opportunity with somebody who's looking for something that might be a little more flexible, that might allow them to work from home on a Friday. So we really dig into both sides.

SEANA SMITH: All about what finding works on an individual basis. All right, Michelle Keefe, thanks so much for taking the time to join us, CEO of MomUp.