January 23, 2022

EWNJ Statement on Maternal Health Awareness Day 2022

On Sunday, January 23rd, we observed Maternal Health Awareness Day. The day highlights the inequities in maternal and infant health care, particularly for Americans of color. In recent years, these shortcomings have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 health crisis. As a women-led organization, this issue is personal. At Executive Women of New Jersey (EWNJ), we not only advocate for gender equity in corporate leadership roles but we also work to raise awareness of the unique needs of women and mothers in the workplace and advocate for policies that empower and protect them.

It’s shameful that despite the rapid and revolutionary gains in health care quality in the United States, approximately 700 women die each year as a result of mostly preventable pregnancy-related complications. When broken down by race, these issues reveal that race is also a predictor of health outcomes for the mother and the baby. Black and Native American/Alaskan women are the most at risk of pregnancy-related death by three and two times higher, respectively, when compared to white women. Additionally, infant mortality is particularly dire for mothers of color, with babies born prematurely at a rate surpassing their white peers. In fact, the preterm birth rate among Black women is 50 percent higher than the rate among all other women combined.

Women’s health needs must be prioritized in the workplace. We’ve heard the horror stories and egregious examples of women in low-wage jobs being denied accommodations that led to the tragic loss of their children and their own lives. One of the main reasons is socioeconomic. We are renewing our call for equal pay as well as meaningful benefits and better working conditions, particularly for low-wage women.