While there have been some employment gains, and hiring outlooks are cautiously optimistic for the fourth quarter, one U.S. demographic segment is definitely not rebounding as quickly. Women in the workforce are facing unique challenges primarily due to changes in childcare and schooling. Last month, 865,000 women LEFT the workforce. That is FOUR TIMES as many men who dropped out during the same time. Even worse, many of these departures come in jobs and industries that are part of “critical infrastructure” work and are over-represented by women. In 2019, women made up more than half of the laborforce. There aren’t enough men to fill the gap.
Data continues to show that women are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic as school and child care are disrupted. Parents of young children may find they no longer have a reliable child care option. School-age children are learning remotely which means an adult needs to be home to supervise both children AND learning. This additional burden is falling largely upon the shoulders of moms, who are also more likely to feel they will be negatively judged for missing work than men feel.
In addition to a massive disruption in the actual workforce, this is also likely to have significant negative impacts on the earnings potential and career paths of many women in the workforce. The share of women in C-suite roles grew 21% from 2015-2020 but the pandemic is a serious threat to this hard-fought progress. Eight-five women receive managerial promotions for every 100 women. Those numbers are even lower for women of color.
While work-from-home and flexible hours can certainly help families adjust to these new demands, it’s not realistic to think women can work a fulltime caretaker/educator role and STILL work fulltime at their paid job. Women who cannot work remotely, especially single mothers, may have no choice but to leave work. The economic devastation on children and families would be difficult to overstate.