Ariana Huffington: ‘This she-cession threatens to roll back’ women’s gains


This is a side note but I have mixed emotions about Ariana Huffington. I used to work as the lunchtime bartender at the restaurant next door to her then husband Michael’s campaign office. Michael was very personable, we loved when he came in. And whereas Ariana was nice to our customers, she treated us, the staff, markedly different, and was oddly demonstrative about it. But I admire how she supported Michael and the LGBTQ community after their divorce, so I try to be charitable and hope she’s softened. And I respect the hell out of how she reinvented herself since her days as a candidate’s wife.

Ariana co-founded The Huffington Post and is the founder and CEO of Thrive Global, whose mission is to avoid burnout from exhaustion in the workplace. Hollywood Life got an exclusive with Ariana, who is set to speak at the No7 Unstoppable Together Job Summit tomorrow, and asked her about the “mass exodus” of women from the workforce that Kamala Harris’ recently called a “national emergency.” Ariana says we are in big trouble if we don’t curb the “she-cession,” as it is being called, and that we, in fact, stand to lose many of the gains women have worked so hard to get.

Tell us about the No7 Unstoppable Together Job Summit? Why is it crucial to address the she-cession now?

Women have borne the lion’s share of the economic burdens of the pandemic, which we can see in job losses, women leaving the workforce, and in the disproportionate mental load of running family life at home. Too many women are being forced to choose between being successful in their jobs or being successful in their roles at home. And this she-cession threatens to roll back many of the gains women have made in recent years.

By giving women the tools, they need to protect their own mental resilience and well-being, we can empower them to navigate the uncertainties that will define our future. For all the challenges of this time, this is also a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a new normal for women that’s a better normal.

Last year had a revolutionary impact on the way people work, with more employees working remotely. Which positive changes do you wish to see continue once we come out of the pandemic?

We were already in an epidemic of stress and burnout before the coronavirus pandemic, and now the conversation around well-being and mental resilience has been brought to the front burner.

Companies increasingly see well-being as essential to every aspect of their business. So, I hope we’ll continue to see companies take action to nurture the health and well-being of their employees, whether they’re working remotely or in the office. Mental resilience has to be a key part of our new normal.

[From Hollywood Life]

When reading stories of parents who had to deal with home schooling or home care during Stay At Home, it was the mother who left her job in almost every case. And the reason was usually because the husband made more money, so it was practical to give up the position that made less money. But that’s a sad commentary, that women still, consistently, make less money than men across the board. I know in the personal conversations I’m having, in which both parents are fortunate enough to have jobs, it’s still the mother who is also managing the schoolwork almost exclusively if the children are home. And when my kids talk about their Zoom classes, it’s only the female teachers who keep having to interrupt their sessions to attend to their own child’s needs, never their male teachers. We, even today, are still functioning as a society that *allows* a woman to have a job if and only if she has her household taken care of. It’s like the end of the WWII all over again – when the country closed for business, and there were so many less jobs, somehow the men got to keep the ones that were left. Package it however you want, Rosie the Riveter was sent home once again. Ariana is exactly right, we do stand to lose everything because the sad fact is, we haven’t gained near as much as we thought, and the pandemic has put a spotlight on that. We should start by not giving this a cute nickname like “she-cession.” I’m okay with mass exodus but even that overlooks the fact we are being forced out.

The rest of Ariana’s interview dealt with mental health. It’s good and worth reading. Her Thrive website is devoted to tips and data to help people from letting their work send them to an early grave. There’s an app too. It’s everything from events to breathing tips to how to sleep better (which Ariana is a big advocate of). Check it out, get a good night’s rest and let’s go take back the workforce because there is no way we’re giving it back to the Boys Club.

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22 Responses to “Ariana Huffington: ‘This she-cession threatens to roll back’ women’s gains”

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  1. SarahCS says:

    I’m a business psychologist and this is a topic that’s very close to my heart, the impact of gender on society is huge (I recommend Invisible Women for a stark/depressing but eye opening read in this area). Business and government need to get on this as rights and wrongs aside, it is having a very real impact on the economy and we will all suffer from that.

  2. LadyAnne says:

    Hecate, this is so well-worded, and so infuriating. As a teacher, I realize I’m the one pausing my Zoom lessons to answer my homeschooled son’s questions indeed! WTH! This is a subject I will discuss a lot with my own children – especially my little girl- in the future.

  3. Merricat says:

    Yep, I feel this down to my toes.

  4. Sigmund says:

    “Companies increasingly see well-being as essential to every aspect of their business.”

    Man, I WISH I was seeing that. Before the pandemic, I would have said I had a good workplace, too. But it’s like the recession and high unemployment has made our employer feel justified to push us harder, to do more with less, and we should feel grateful to have jobs when so many others don’t.

    After the last recession, this was not something I ever wanted to live through again.

    • EMc says:

      I agree with you, Sigmund. I’m in retail pharmacy and I can tell you that there was a period when companies celebrated us as “heros” but that was very short lived. Now its back to little to no staffing, increased expectations, and more responsibility with Covid testing and vaccination. We recently had a regional manager get fired for going off on a conference call when she thought she was muted- about how lazy her teams are and how worthless they all are, with a few expletives. This was happening pre-covid, and I was sincerely hoping this would be the opportunity for companies to change how they treat the employees in their pharmacies. But naw.

  5. EMc says:

    I left my job to stay home with our kids. I made quite a bit more than my husband, but I felt like I was failing as a mother trying to manage both my boys and my job. If I was doing great at home its because I wasn’t putting in the effort at work, and vice versa. I willingly took a step back, we sold our house and downsized to afford it. And I was back to work 9 months later, because I missed working and having my own life that wasn’t being solely a parent. My heart goes out to the women that don’t have a choice in this matter. I don’t know what the solution is, but we’ve gotta do better in this country to support working moms.

    • Kate says:

      I was coming down here to say something similar. What I have seen in my marriage and with my friends, it’s not so much that the husband is saying or implying that “you HAVE to take care of the kids and the household before you may work” – it’s more like women just *care* more about the emotional well-being of the kids and making sure they are thriving not just getting by.

      I know many “good guys” – devoted husbands and fathers who believe in women’s equality and who help wash dishes. But I don’t know many men who can accurately understand why their toddler is having more tantrums lately or who would take the initiative to sign up for a parenting seminar or read a book to understand the best way to sleep train on their own if their partner wasn’t suggesting it.

      Women tend to have to choose between (1) letting their husband or babysitter or mother-in-law do their best while they do their jobs, and then living with the constant nagging feeling that things are not well or as good as they could be if the mom was putting her attention to it, and (2) doing it themselves and half-assing their job or taking leave or sacrificing sleep and burning out.

    • umarkey says:

      I feel you! I just resigned, and will be leaving my job in 3 weeks. I make as much as my husband, but with a 8 month old baby and no family near us, we are struggling so much. We both work very demanding careers (NYC stereotypical careers), and my heart breaks when I have to multitask work meetings and baby. I’ve started waking up at 3 or 4am weekdays and weekends and work late nights just to be able to get everything done, and my mental health is really struggling. It’s such a tough time for everyone, and I feel lucky that I can financially afford to take a short break and focus on my baby, but I also feel torn bc I put in 9 years of college and my career was everything to me.

      • Alarmjaguar says:

        @unmarkey I am so sorry you have to make that choice. Hopefully, we as a society will recognize that childcare is such an important issue and address it. Though I know that doesn’t help you in this moment. Hugs

  6. ItReallyIsYouNotMe says:

    I make quite a bit more than my husband and do a lot of the childcare, but he deals with the house stuff, most of the cooking, and the accounts and bills. I can’t lie that I enjoy working at home and wish that I could do this forever. But there is still too much to do even with 2 people with FT jobs and no commute dividing the effort. I think that there is something to the idea that extended families/communities were natural before modern times because they share the burden.

    • Yup, Me says:

      Yes! Yes! Yes! I’m working full time and homeschooling our son and the only way it’s been manageable is that my mother lives with us and contributes just like a full on partner/parent. Between my family and my in laws, I have never had to parent alone (or just with my spouse who is very loving but nowhere near as supportive or intuitive as another experienced mother.) I have been so aware of the struggle of moms alone with their kids or even just sharing the workload with a husband. We need community around us to survive, not to mention to thrive.

  7. LillyfromLillooet says:

    I struggle with Ariana. Back in the day, she presided over a no-pay structure for people who wanted to blog under the HuffPo banner, and many did in hopes that writing for free might lead them to paid work. Talk about enforcing a 5-to-9 lifestyle! And then she runs a site to address career burnout?! What am I missing that doesn’t make this woman a hypocrite?

    • Elizabeth says:

      I think she’s a privileged corporate shill. The American capitalist economy is gravely abusive to workers and she’s basically telling workers the responsibility is on them to keep themselves sane and healthy when their companies are exploiting and underpaying them. Kind of like Sheryl Sandberg with Lean In, an inordinately privileged woman saying it’s on women to be better when the deck is completely stacked against them. I wouldn’t listen to either of them.

      • SusieQ says:

        @Elizabeth, I agree with your assessment of Huffington. I went to her Thrive website after reading this article, and it was an immediate turn-off, with all of her buzzwords and talk of CEOs. Her Thrive program isn’t really made for anyone who is not at the very top of the company.

    • Baela says:

      She is a hypocrite. But middle aged white liberal feminists adore their corporate shills. And they make the readership of this site.

  8. sunny says:

    This is such a serious issue and is happening in so many places. In Canada, the situation is similar with women bearing the brunt of pandemic. The government has somewhat acknowledged it but not with much action as of yet. I am deeply skeptical. National childcare is suppose to be announced in our next budget but who knows what that will look like and to what degree they will commit to a robust system.

    Also the impact of women being left behind by the labour market during and after this pandemic, needs to be studied. I really hope we see analysis across multiple fields.

  9. What can we do to combat the systems that allows women to still make less then men? Why is the woman’s job looked at as the second income even if she is the sole support?

    I work in a predominately female field, yet any man coming in will make more $$. True story, prior job site, guy was brought in with no degree, paid $4 more an hour than me. Mathematically that was $8000 more a year, it still stings.

  10. Embee says:

    The 40 hour workweek (and who only works 40 hours? Plus commuting during the normal times) was based off a societal model that presumed a full time homemaker. We must innovate and when we do we must acknowledge the time and energy child rearing and house maintenance require. I worked for law firms for 15 years, the last seven of which I was also the sole caregiver to my daughter. To say I was exhausted is a grace understatement. I got cancer. I know it was due to the stress. I’m fortunate that I was able to open my own firm, and my staff works 9-3, so they can drop off and pick up kids and spend time with them! It can be done. We won’t become millionaires overnight but we get by and we are content.

    • UptownGirl says:

      Good for you!!! You are truly an inspiration to other women and have actually taken the idea and done it!! Brava!!
      I am terribly sorry about the cancer though. That must have been awful but I hope that you are cancer free and remain so for the rest of your life!!

    • RK says:

      This gives me hope. I was at a consulting firm for 11 years and burned out big time after having kids. I didn’t end up with cancer (I’m so sorry) but have ongoing chronic health challenges now. I’m now doing freelance consulting in the same industry and truly aiming for a 9-3 life, maybe someday building a full-fledged firm of my own, whenever I have the capacity to think beyond pandemic survival. No millionaires here either, but getting by and having space for actual life is enough.

  11. candy says:

    I make a point of wearing comfortable clothes and shoes to work, and making my office a very nice inviting place where I feel good. I wonder how much of women’s discomfort with the work place can be correlated to how uncomfortable we are in our work attire? It’s a legitimate question. Imagine 8-10 hrs of bad shoes? Vs. men whose work attire is far more comfortable.

  12. MM2 says:

    I honestly thought once I made as much, and then more, than my then husband, my job would be seen as equal in importance. The harsh reality that I didn’t see coming is that it did not, even with him being materialistic. His job was so tied into his image that it was still held in much higher regard than mine. Even with making less or more money, the woman’s job was still lower on the totem pole in my household (not just by my ex, but our families too. I was flabbergasted).

    You might not reach that carrot of equality, even once you make more than your male counterpart. But, still reach for that carrot women, because if you are lucky to get a divorce, it’s suddenly attainable & it’s delicious.