The COVID-19 pandemic has been a devastating health crisis, taking the lives of over 250,000 Americans. It has also gravely impacted the economy. With many jobs unable to support an at home work option, and parents having to rethink their work schedules to accommodate their children’s school schedules, job loss or income loss has been skyrocketing.
Women, disproportionately Black and Latina women, have been particularly affected by this job and income loss. In September alone more than 800,000 women across the country left the workforce compared to 216,000 men. Overall, there are 2.2 million fewer women in the workforce than in February due to the effects of the pandemic.
Why has the COVID-19 pandemic affected women so disproportionately?
- One main reason is having young children. A study conducted by McKinsey & Co found that about 76% of mothers with children under age 10 said child care is one of their top three challenges during the pandemic.
- Another factor is the pay gap that existed prior to the pandemic, where women on average made $0.82 to every dollar men made in the workforce.
- The pandemic has also caused what some are calling a “gendered shutdown”, where sectors primarily made up of women have been more greatly affected than others. This includes the leisure and hospitality sector where 53% of the workforce is made up of women, and disproportionately around 57% of the jobs cut were roles held by women.
- Small businesses owned by women have been suffering at higher rates as well.
When discussing the effects the pandemic has on women, Betsey Stevenson, professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan, shared “Overall, the labor force today paints a picture of a slowing recovery — one where women are struggling to get a foothold back in the economy. And that is likely to cause permanent labor market scarring more among women than among men, and as a result the effects of this could linger with us for years, if not decades to come.”
To recover from the grave economic effects the pandemic has had on the country and especially women, we need to reimagine what the economy looks like in the future. We need to enact policies that improve paid family and sick leave, offer affordable child care, and fix the pay gap.
Maya Raghu, director of workplace equality at the National Women’s Law Center drove this point home and shared, “It’s definitely going to take change at a policy level, at an institutional workplace level, at a cultural level to address all of these issues. Culturally we have to move beyond this notion of women having to be the primary caregivers, and making sure that those responsibilities are distributed.”
To read more about how the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women, head to The Detroit Free Press here.