/From jobs to pay, the coronavirus pandemic has hurt women
From jobs to pay, the coronavirus pandemic has hurt women

From jobs to pay, the coronavirus pandemic has hurt women

Brothers91 | E+ | Getty Images

One year into the coronavirus pandemic, women are not OK.

More than 2.3 million have left the workforce since February 2020, bringing their labor participation rate to levels not seen since 1988, according to the National Women’s Law Center. In December alone, women accounted for 100% of the jobs lost.

Whether they have been laid off or had to leave to care for children home from school, many are struggling to make ends meet. In fact, 1 in 4 women are considering leaving the workforce or downshifting their careers, according to a September “Women in the Workplace” report from Lean In and McKinsey & Company.

The implications are far-reaching — and could result in a widening of the gender pay gap, said Emily Martin, vice president for education and workplace justice at NWLC.

“Long-term employment, as well as leaving the labor force entirely for a spell, that is certainly going to show up in wages once you are again employed,” she said.

The headwinds against women are just increasing in strength, and women are just continuing to fall behind.

Stacy Francis

CEO of Francis Financial

‘This is temporary’

Deborah Irlanda lost her job during the pandemic. She’s now training to become a community health worker.

Source: Deborah Irlanda

Deborah Irlanda arrived in Providence, Rhode Island, in 2017 with just one suitcase. She had lost everything when her home in Puerto Rico was destroyed by Hurricane Maria, and she was hoping to start anew.

When the pandemic hit, Irlanda was a cook — working full time in the cafeteria of a Rhode Island hospital, as well as a local restaurant. The eatery immediately shut its doors, and her hours at the hospital were cut in half. By September, she was unemployed.

Fortunately, Irlanda, 48, was able to get a $1,500 Covid crisis relief loan from a local community development financial institution, Capital Good Fund, to enable her to move out of her rented apartment and in with a friend.

“This is temporary; I cannot keep staying here,” said Irlanda, a single mother to two adult daughters. She’s now training to become a community health worker.

Irlanda’s situation is far from unique. The restaurant industry, in which a majority of the workers are women, has been slammed by the pandemic.

“A lot of the jobs that have seen the biggest job losses during Covid are where women are the majority of workers,” Martin said.

‘Our income has been cut in half’

Martha Wade Chaires had to step back from work in order to care for her children during the pandemic.

Source: Martha Wade Chairs

What can be done

Luis Alvarez | DigitalVision | Getty Images

This is an important moment for policymakers and employers to figure out how they are going to respond to the fact that, more than ever before, employees are being stretched to cover family caregiving and work obligations at the same time, Martin said.

That means paid leave, paid sick days, support for pregnant workers and making childcare more available and affordable, she explained.

“One of the things I worry about is the deepening of stereotypes that mothers are not reliable employees, given a crisis that makes it very difficult than ever before to be a primary caregiver to children and to be a perfect employee,” Martin said.

“I question whether we come out of this with employers having a new distrust of parents as workers — mothers, in particular — or with stronger policies that enable people to do both.”

In the meantime, women with partners can speak with them about a more equitable distribution of childcare and household duties.