A woman who lost her job is waiting in line to file for unemployment following a coronavirus outbreak at an Arkansas Workforce Center in Fort Smith, Architect, April 6, 2020. Credit ̵
The United States is in the midst of a crushing economic recession, COVID-19 infection rates are rising, and thousands of schools and childcare facilities have yet to open personal classrooms. The group that bears the burden of this stream of bad news? Women.
Between August and September, 865,000 women dropped out of the workforce, according to a National Women’s Law Center analysis of the September Labor Statistics report. During the same period, only 216,000 men left the workforce. Meanwhile, one in four women is considering reducing working hours, moving to part-time roles, switching to less demanding jobs, taking time off work or leaving the workforce altogether, according to an annual survey of women in the workplace published in September by McKinsey & Co. and Lean In.
“If we had a panic button, we would hit it,” says Rachel Thomas, CEO of Lean In, a gender advocacy group co-founder of Facebook director Sheryl Sandberg. “We’ve never seen numbers like these.”
In the absence of analogy, it is far too early to say what the impact of this unequal emigration will be, as we are still in the midst of it. But economic and business analysts agree that it will not be good: progress towards gender equality, which is still incomplete, will certainly stall if not fall behind. The number of women serving C-suite roles can also fall and hurt the women who miss them – while at the same time violating the companies they work for. Research shows that companies with heterogeneity tend to have better balance than their competitors. All these complex factors serve to break down the economic recovery for all.
“There is no historical parallel to what is happening here for women,” said Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “We have nothing to compare it to: not to the recession of 2008 or the Great Depression.”
Some of these jarring figures can be attributed to the type of jobs that women often have. Women-dominated industries, including health care, education, care for the elderly, service and hospitality, have been among the hardest hit by COVID-induced recession. When the pandemic first overwhelmed the United States in March and April, hospitals began going on nurses and medical assistants, working primarily on optional procedures. Daycare, struggling with declining enrollment and skyrocketing overhead costs, laid off 250,000 employees. By April, 72% of households had reported being abandoned by all their clients. Restaurants that lost all of their dining space overnight fired their servers – 70% of whom are women.
But layoffs and layoffs explain only part of the picture. Many women leave the workforce not because their jobs have disappeared but because their support systems are done. More than half of U.S. elementary and high school students now attend online-only classes, according to a recent survey by Burbio, a software company that collects school calendars and community calendars. And about 40% of childcare centers surveyed in July by the National Association for the Education of Young Children reported that they were doomed to close permanently without significant government assistance – which never happened.
Without the help of these institutions, the full-time job of caring for and educating children has fallen disproportionately on women. According to the McKinsey and Lean In report, twice as many working mothers said they were concerned about their job performance because they were also juggling care responsibilities. Only 44% of mothers surveyed said they shared household responsibilities equally with their partner since the pandemic started. (Men tend to have a different opinion: 70% of fathers surveyed said they did their fair share.) For the one in five mothers raising children without a cohabitant living together, the challenges are even greater.
Women’s decisions to leave the workforce this year are likely to affect their own professional and financial goals for the rest of their lives. It is an inaccurate comparison, but surveys conducted on students who graduate to recessions and then are either unemployed or forced to take jobs below their qualification levels lose earnings compared to students who graduated from college due to more economic economic conditions. The losses initially amount to approx. 9% and tends not to disappear completely until approx. a decade after graduation day.
But women are not the only ones who will suffer. Businesses – and the US economy – will too. A 19-year 215 company survey from Pepperdine University found a strong correlation between companies hiring female executives and their profitability, resulting in an 18-69% boost for Fortune 500 companies with the best records for promoting women. “Women bring really important skills to the job market, and they drive all kinds of innovation,” said Melissa Boteach, vice president of the National Women’s Law Center. “Companies that are more diverse are doing better. And we leave people on the sidelines wanting to join the game. ”
The United States is unique among industrialized countries in ways it has failed women. Unlike all other industrialized countries, the United States does not guarantee paid parental leave through a permanent and universal federal law, making it impossible for some women to care for family members who become ill or for children who are suddenly without child care. The federal government also does not require all companies to provide paid sick leave, which probably resulted in some employees continuing to work when they should have called sick. “The fact that we had such backward workplace policies for women in this country made us more vulnerable to the pandemic,” Boteach claims.
The absence of preparation on these fronts is likely to suppress and delay long-term recovery, economists say. When more people are able to participate in the labor force, economic output measured by gross domestic product increases, while labor costs fall. At a more microeconomic level, the study showed Lean In and McKinsey and Co. that mothers were 1.5 times more likely than fathers to spend 20 hours a week – equivalent to half a full-time job – on childcare and housework. If this worsening double taxation results in a large percentage of double-income families with children opting for a parent to stay at home, discretionary spending will also suffer.
The pandemic has revealed years of progress in creating more equal and diverse jobs. Out of the six years McKinsey and Lean In have conducted their joint workplace survey, male and female wear and tear had always been in tandem. Until now it is.
“Thinking that we might lose all the hard-earned progress we’ve seen in the representation of women in a single year really gets us breathing,” says Thomas, “and we think it should have someone who is the leader of an organization also breathless. ”