Figure 1. The pandemic has had disproportionate impacts on working women’s careers. Photo by Adobe Spark.
COVID-19 has altered the lives of most Americans, but changes at home and work have affected working women significantly, particularly working women of color.
Even before COVID, women earned less, saved less, had less access to financial services and products, and had non-linear career trajectories. Furthermore, women lived longer than men. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women’s life expectancy is to reach 87.3 years by 2060, compared with 83.9 years for men (Medina, Sabo, and Vespa 2020). Since COVID-19, women face additional disproportional impacts from the pandemic-induced recession. The pandemic’s effect on women has been termed a “she-cession,” by C. Nicole Mason, a women’s policy researcher and economist, to describe the disproportionate impacts the pandemic has had on working women’s careers (Andrews 2020).
Our country has undergone an initial mass exodus of more than 20 million women from the workforce at the beginning of the pandemic (Chiappa 2021). While many women eventually returned to work, a huge number left their careers to fill ongoing gaps in childcare and to help with their children’s remote learning. January’s 2021 jobs reports showed that 2.5 million women ultimately exited the workforce compared to 1.8 million men (Rogers 2021). This imbalance raises several questions:
- Whose professional time do we value most?
- Who is dispensable?
- How can employers support and retain women in the workplace?
This fact sheet explores answers to these questions by highlighting some of the growing inequities of working women, especially after the onset of COVID-19. It also presents actionable solutions where employers can start designing their working environments and adjusting employee policies to support women proactively and tangibly in the workplace. “Equality for women is progress for all” (Unicef 2014). Click below to read the full fact sheet.
Andrews, Audrey. 2020. “The Coronavirus Recession Is a ‘She-cession.’” Press Hits, Institute for Women’s Policy Research. May 15, 2020.
Medina, Lauren, Shannon Sabo, and Johathan Vespa. 2020. Living Longer: Historical and Projected Life Expectancy in the United States, 1960 to 2060. Washington D.C., U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau. PDF.
Chiappa, Claudia. 2021. “The Pandemic Forced Millions of Women Out of the Workforce—Many Have Not Returned.” Daily Hampshire Gazette. November 8, 2021.
Rogers, Katie. 2021. “2.5 Million Women Left the Workforce During the Pandemic. Kamala Harris Sees a ‘National Emergency.” The New York Times, The Indian Express (website). February 19, 2021.
Unicef. 2014. Equality for Women Is Progress for All. March 8, 2014.
* Full reference list in the fact sheet.