How Biden’s Build Back Better Can Help Get Women Back to Work

Women in the U.S. have been among those hardest hit economically by the Covid-19 pandemic, knocked out of the workforce by the double whammy of a child care crisis and the pandemic recession.

President Joe Biden’s roughly $2 trillion tax and spending bill, which could face a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives this week, looks to address some of the major challenges that have pushed the female labor force participation rate to lows not seen in decades.

The bill, known as the Build Back Better Act, has already undergone changes and will be revised further as it makes its way through Congress. West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin, a key vote on the bill, and other moderate Democrats have blasted its cost and already signaled potential cuts, including paid family leave.

But should some of the tentpoles of the bill go through, it would represent a huge shift for the economic reality of women. Here are the four proposals that would have the biggest impact:

Federal Paid Parental Leave

The latest version of Biden’s bill would provide four weeks of paid leave to all new parents, which is down from the 12 weeks originally proposed, but still historic for the U.S. — one of just a handful of countries that offers no paid maternity leave at all.

Right now, only 23% of the country’s workers have access to paid family leave through their employers or city and state programs. Instead, millions of parents, most often women, take unpaid time off or cobble together vacation time; many drop out of the workforce altogether, losing out on valuable years of earning potential.