It's no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit women, especially women of color, particularly hard in many ways. And although vaccine distribution is looking up and case counts are going down, the present reality is still bleak for many women across the country. According to recent data by the National Women's Law Center, the total number of women who have left the labor force in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic reached more than 2.3 million in January; that means the women’s labor force participation rate–the percentage of adult women who are either working or looking for work—is 57 percent. While men have also, of course, been impacted by the pandemic, the rate of job loss for men is lower.
As Women's History Month gets underway, groups worldwide are pursuing initiatives to help get women back on their feet. One that's particularly exciting (easy to participate in): #2MillionMentorMinutes, a give-back initiative started by Dee Poku, founder and CEO of the WIE Suite, a platform and community for female leaders. The program, officially launching today, International Women's Day, invites women (and men!) to donate at least 60 minutes of their time in March to mentor and help women who recently lost their jobs or are looking to re-enter the job market. Because some of the hardest hit groups include BIPOC women, moms, caregivers, and new college grads, #2MillionMentorMinutes will have special focus on empowering them.
Poku's goal is that the program donates a total of 2 million minutes to women out of the workforce, representing the more than 2 million women who lost their jobs or had to leave their jobs in the last year. "This is such an isolating time for everyone and I know that in my toughest moments, being able to tap into my network for expert advice has proved invaluable," she told Marie Claire. "I’ve been as stunned as everyone else by the jobless numbers and as a community builder this felt like the best and most immediate way I could help."
Powerhouses who have already singed on to the program include founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Opal Tometi, makeup titan Bobbi Brown, designer and founder of Female Founder Collective, Rebecca Minkoff, and more. The mentors will both be offering individual sessions, as well as group sessions.
For more info, check out the #2MillionMentorMinutes program on WIE's website. And, if you can spare just an hour of your time this month, sign up to be a mentor here. We promise, it will be worth it—we can only build back stronger if we build back together.