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By: Geri Stengel

The economy would grow 10-12% by 2025 if women had parity, according to The Power of Parity: How Advancing Women’s Equality Can Add $12 Trillion to Global Growth by McKinsey Global Institute.

Financing is key to that, as I wrote in 14 Assists That Will Help Women Entrepreneurs Score in 2017. But other things, such as affordable healthcare and childcare, paid family leave, access to markets and getting paid on time are also important. Everyone has a role to play. From government to investors, from corporations to women entrepreneurs, concrete actions will ultimately create more jobs for everyone.

  1. Providing affordable high quality healthcare is an imperative

“In order to compete with other businesses, large and small, you need to give American workers what they want — and need — which is a decent benefits package, including healthcare,” said Rieva Lesonsky, small business and entrepreneurship thought leader, advocate, journalist and founder of GrowBiz Media.. “Unfortunately, too many small businesses can’t afford to (or simply don’t want  to) provide for their staff. Those businesses will continue to lose the trained, smart, qualified employees they seek because those workers will go to work for businesses that provide those benefits.”

“We were pleased to see Congress reinstate Health Reimbursement Arrangements [HRA] that offer business owners an easy and tax-friendly way to subsidize employee medical costs, including insurance premiums,” said Jane Campbell, president of Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), a national nonpartisan public policy organization that advocates for and on behalf of women business owners. HRA allows companies with fewer than 50 full-time employees to reimburse employees’ for purchasing individual health insurance as if it were directly paying the premiums on a group health policy. The employee won’t have to pay taxes on the company’s premium contribution nor will the company owe payroll taxes on it.

In the last few years, concern has grown about the rate of new business start-ups. They are the primary source of job creation in U.S. “I fear the startup rate will decrease even more if there’s no affordable healthcare options for new entrepreneurs,” said Lesonsky “How many who want to start their own businesses will instead have to find jobs (with health insurance)?”

“Prior to the ACA [Affordable Care Act], the small business market’s biggest challenge was access. Plans were cancelled the minute an employee got sick. Small businesses need stability in this marketplace which, to some extent, the exchanges provided,” said Campbell. “We hope the new Congress and Administration make choices that give small businesses affordable access to health insurance. We need simple and flexible healthcare options for women entrepreneurs in the coming year and beyond.”

  1. Affordable childcare is a critical

Childcare is the biggest expense after housing. This disportionately impacts poor women and single-mother families. Poverty rates are dramatically higher among single-mother families.

“Affordable, high-quality childcare has remarkably positive effects,” said Joya Misra, professor of sociology and public policy at the University of Massachusetts in Forget the Glass Ceiling: Build Your Business Without One. Countries with higher levels of publicly subsidized childcare have significantly higher levels of maternal employment and wages.

“Affordable childcare is the great equalizer,” said Misra. “Affordable, quality childcare allows more women (as the caregivers-in-chief for their families) to stay in the workforce,” said Jennifer Owens, in Forget the Glass Ceiling. She is the director of Working Mother Research Institute, which publishes the Working Mother 100 Best Companies and Working Mother magazine. “The loss of women in the workplace means a loss of diversity of thought, which leads to lower innovation and less knowledge of the primary consumer’s mindset.”

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Originally posted on Women Presidents' Organization by Women Presidents' Organization.

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