I was incredibly honored to be asked to write the piece for Women's History Month for the UCSF/SFSU Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science's Solidarity In Action Page. See below!
Dear UCSF Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science Community,
March is the month of the year when the United States highlights the valuable contributions and accomplishments of determined and persevering women. As we reflect on the past year with hindsight, which the cliché says is 20/20, I challenge us to look at the progress we have made during the struggle. We as women, the progressive people within the US, and those fortunate to be part of the Bay Area Culture, and moreover UCSF can be the continued change.
Fear struck us in March 2020. The pandemic forced us all - men, women, transgender, privileged, underprivileged, our nation - into containment and a way of life many were unaccustomed; limited, restricted, overwhelmed, and in a way, victimized. Forced to cover up who we are, required to shelter, hide away, extend ourselves, ruminate on our fears, sorrows, learn to survive, and eventually persevere. As women, many of these things were already familiar, except now, everyone was forced to feel it, live it.
We must pause, consider, and reflect on ourselves, just as the symbol of a woman
Our collective struggles in 2020 played a pivotal role and helped unearth deep-rooted systems our nation has capitalized on from the start. Walking a mile in someone else's shoes hit everyone in some form or fashion over the past year. Though some struggles were inclusive, others - depending on your situation - may have brought a re-emergence of Ruth Schwartz Cowan's 1983 book ‘More Work for Mother’.
Is it ironic that 4x as many women, as compared to their male colleagues, were forced to leave the workforce during the pandemic? (1)
On a national stage, we witnessed the mass exodus of women from the workplace that Covid caused, which brought uncharted territory for us well beyond ‘The Pregnancy Pause’ - how do we bounce back from this?
The Marshall Plan for Moms, calling for policies for equal pay, affordable childcare, and stipends for the “unseen” labor that tends to fall on women.
Many of us wore multiple hats since last March: provider, partner, mother, daughter, sister, caretaker, teacher, etc. Only with balance and creativity can one prioritize self-care, and we saw during this struggle many women’s health issues were exacerbated. The ramifications of COVID and the burdens associated with it created increased awareness to women’s physical, mental, emotional, and social health, including access to care, surge in gender-based violence, and the deep existing inequalities that disproportionately affect BIPOC women. The innovation of different service models, like telehealth, were implemented to reach more women and provide the care that would have been lost. We are called to continue creative thinking to enable inclusive and equitable care to further close the health disparities gap.
While many could think this past year was “The Year We Lost”, perhaps there is a new narrative we can share. As we begin to physically emerge from isolation, we are welcomed with what metamorphosis naturally brings after deep self-reflection: imagination, creativity, and much needed change. Women deliver new life into this world, and now, with a woman finally represented on the national stage, perhaps will breathe new life into this country. Through empathy, advocacy, and awareness brought forth by the pandemic, we have increased momentum in future financial, physical, mental, emotional, and societal health for women. It is now up to us to continue to solidify the closure of the gap we have been fighting for.
Jennifer Kinder PT, MS, DPTSc, Associate Professor