“Thanks to the pandemic, in homes across America, women are still shouldering more of the burdens of keeping families and households together.”


By Caitlin Jachimowicz

Caitlin

A lot has changed in five years. Five years ago, I was unaware that I would soon be appointed to a vacant city council seat, making me the only woman to sit on the dais during those Morgan Hill City Council meetings. Soon, a well-meaning constituent would tell me I was a “brave little girl” for sitting up there with all of those men. I smiled politely, as I’ve been taught to do, and thought to myself “they’re brave to sit up here with me.” My friend and colleague Rene Spring overheard the exchange and encouraged me to let it go. But here I am, still thinking about what the implications of that conversation are for my daughter.

As I sat on the dais, I noticed something remarkable. Most of the people who stood up to give reports to us were women. At the time our assistant city managers were Christina Turner and Leslie Little. Maureen Tobin was reporting on community engagement, Edith Ramirez was reporting on economic development, and Rebecca Garcia on issues of housing. The movie “Wonder Woman” was about to hit the theaters, and I realized that even though they weren’t on the dais, Morgan Hill was made up of “wonder women” making everything work behind the scenes.  But isn’t that true of many places?

That year I met Cecelia Ponzini after we attended an event where we both expressed concern for immigrant families in our community. And in meeting her, I met the biggest “wonder woman” of them all.

As our friendship has blossomed, I’ve been amazed at how she nearly single-handedly takes care of hundreds of families in our community. My friend John Horner, then CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, introduced me to Brittney Sherman who was busy making sure our community events — Friday Night Music Series, Taste of Morgan Hill — went off without a hitch. And so, the three of us set off to start Women’s Week in Morgan Hill with the goal of celebrating and shining a light on the sometimes-unsung work of women. But we vowed to keep our events inclusive, understanding nuanced conversations around equality requires perspectives from all races, genders, and community members.  We have been lucky to find partners in businesses and organizations across the city to help us meet that goal.

One of the biggest changes in the last five years has been the “Me Too” movement. I couldn’t have predicted a reckoning was coming on an international scale. As someone who has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace that would make your eyes water, I was glad we were having open conversations about our experiences.

Yet as the movement threw a sometimes-undiscerning light onto women’s experiences, I still felt there was more constructive conversation needed. What now? How do we move forward together as a community?

Thanks to the pandemic, in homes across America, women are still shouldering more of the burdens of keeping families and households together. According to Forbes, the National Women’s Law Center found women’s workforce participation reached 57 percent in February, the lowest participation rate since 1988. Even before the pandemic, women were overrepresented in low-paying jobs, and roughly half of Latina, Black and Native American women were living below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.

As of February, more than 2.3 million American women have left the labor force since February 2020. Of course, these statistics affect our partners too. We have less income coming into our homes, greater childcare burdens, and collective trauma that we haven’t had the time to unpack yet.

So, we are still here. Cecelia, Brittney, Katie Khera, and I still make up the entirety of the team behind Women’s Week. Five years in, it’s our estimation that Women’s Week is still relevant.

Because more than ever, we want to take a moment to hit pause on our busy lives and look around. We want to thank all the women I mentioned, our partner businesses and organizations, and the countless others who make our worlds turn behind the scenes. And more than anything I want to thank those of you who have attended, participated in, moderated, and spoken at our events in the last five years. Once again, our goal is to celebrate all of you this week. Because we have had a hell of a year, and we deserve it.


Caitlin

Caitlin Jachimowicz is the city treasurer and an organizer of Women’s Week.

 

Guest Column