By Craig Erwin, Ph.D.
Life is unfair – especially for women. There are so many ways that women are at a disadvantage. For example, they are paid less than men on average, they are more likely to work part-time, and they are more likely to have their career interrupted by childbirth and elder care.
Instead of giving women a break since they already face so many disadvantages, the pandemic hit women harder than men. Women lost more jobs than men. As of November, 2020, men had only lost 4.6 million jobs, whereas women had lost 5.3 million jobs. Why? Because women tend to be more heavily employed in industries hit harder by the pandemic, such as meeting and convention planners, restaurants, hotels, and clothing stores. At the same time, women tend to dominate some of the sectors hit hardest by the pandemic, such as hospitals and schools. Women make up most of the workforce in both hospitals and K-12 schools. As a result, many women have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, while many who have kept their jobs are on the front line in the war against the pandemic.
Another way in which the pandemic has hurt women is that many day care centers have closed and day care staff (mostly women) have been laid off, eliminating jobs and making day care harder to find and more costly.
Since women often shoulder more of the burden for childcare than men, the pandemic has forced many women to devote more time and effort to helping their children study remotely. Some women have quit their jobs to enable them to support their children’s study-from-home efforts.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas found evidence that women have been hit harder than men by the pandemic. It found that father’s labor participation rates were little affected by the pandemic, whereas mother’s labor participation rates were more likely to have declined. So, Black and Latina mothers dropped out of the workforce at higher rates than White women.
The authors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas study noted that this was a setback for Black and Latina women, who had been seeing strong job gains before the pandemic, but saw job prospects decline due to the pandemic and a lack of health care.
Although unemployment rates are higher for all women than they were before the pandemic, Black and Latina women have much higher unemployment rates than White women. And the pandemic is making things worse. At the current rate of job growth, it may be years before the economy can recover the jobs it lost during the pandemic.
Further, it may take years to undo the damage to women’s careers and savings. While they are unemployed, women will be unable to save for retirement and will instead be forced to draw on savings to survive. Also, the longer a woman is out of work, the harder it may be for her to find suitable work again and the harder it may be to find full-time work. Clearly, the pandemic will scar millions of American women for years to come.
See the following Blog post for more information on the disadvantages women face.
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