Caring for Our Care Workers

Let’s commit to lifting up the people who provide the services that allow us to focus on our jobs.

Think about a woman breaking through the proverbial glass ceiling. How did she get there? She’s probably smart, creative, driven, passionate, and strong. She’s got the expertise, experience, and character of a leader. She likely has allies, mentors, sponsors, and family members supporting her success.

But that’s not the full picture. Chances are she also has a team of caretakers behind her, helping her look after her children, tend to older parents or other relatives, and maintain her and her family’s physical health.

These caretakers are essential to women’s achievements in the corporate world. And if we value gender diversity in our organizations, we must also value the millions of caretakers whose work helps make it possible for so many women—and men—to do their jobs every day.

As our Catalyst colleague, Megan Kincaid-Kramer, put it in her TEDxGoshen talk, “Care is the work that enables all other work to be accomplished.”

Pause and reflect on that sentiment. If care is so important to our jobs, our organizations, and our economic growth, then how do we make sure that it’s available and accessible to the people who need it? And how can we ensure that it’s rewarding and fulfilling for the people providing it?

Around the world, the care economy is quickly expanding. The World Economic Forum reports that 40 percent of projected job growth is in the care economy—not in technology, as many people might assume.

The health care, childcare, eldercare, and social services sectors are growing, but many needs remain unmet, leaving family members—usually women and girls—to fill the gap with unpaid or underpaid labor.

Indeed, gender stereotypes and norms about a “woman’s place” still push women into traditional caretaking roles, devalue their work, and amplify economic and social divides.

Because of this, women are overrepresented in many of the traditional care-related occupations and industries globally. Despite this, men still hold the majority of leadership positions. For example, 70 percent of workers in health- and social-care institutions are women, but only 25 percent of senior roles are held by women, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

As important as jobs in the care economy are, the International Labour Organization comments that workers often experience “a void of benefits and protections, low wages or non-compensation, and exposure to physical, mental and, in some cases, sexual harm.” In addition, the WHO points out that these disparities are “multiplied by the intersection of gender with race, ethnicity, caste, or religion—depending where you are in the world.”

As more and more women rise to the top of corporate leadership, let’s commit to lifting up the people who provide the services that allow us to focus on our jobs. We must ensure that women are treated well and compensated fairly in all sectors. We must challenge the assumptions and structures that block care workers from having equitable opportunities to thrive and succeed. Most importantly, we must make sure to care for the very people who are caring for us. DW


Joy Ohm, vice president, science writer, and advisor at Catalyst, works with colleagues to tell engaging stories with data.

Dnika J. Travis, PhD, vice president, research, is a recognized researcher, educator, and change leader who leads research initiatives and manages content creation at Catalyst.



Catalyst is a global nonprofit working with some of the world’s most powerful CEOs and leading companies to help build workplaces that work for women. Founded in 1962, Catalyst drives change with pioneering research, practical tools, and proven solutions to accelerate and advance women into le

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