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Recent survey data reveal the effects of COVID-19 on women’s careers 

Last month, record job losses pushed women and people of color out of the workforce en mass with over 140,000 jobs lost in December alone. The effects of COVID-19 on women’s careers has been extensive. Women in the U.S. have bore the brunt of pandemic-related layoffs, resulting in over 5 million jobs lost according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

How COVID-19 has affected women’s careers 

Since the pandemic hit in March of 2020, working women have faced extraordinary pressure to balance both their careers and families. Over 2 million women have since dropped out of the workforce to focus on childcare duties and aid in homeschooling through distance learning as many schools still remain closed. 

In a survey conducted by UBS Global Wealth Management, more than 60% of women said their careers have been hurt in some way due to COVID-19. 

effects of COVID-19 on women’s careers

How COVID-19 is affecting women’s careers. (Graphic source: UBS Investor Pulse Survey)

“The idea of work-life balance has been placed out of balance,” says Paula Polito, Vice Chairperson at UBS Global Wealth Management. “Women are having to renegotiate the so-called “double shift” and focus on household and childcare duties. As a result, their careers are taking a back seat.”

Additionally, the survey revealed that many women and men have fallen back on traditional gender roles during the pandemic with women taking on the majority of cleaning, cooking, and childcare tasks while men were more likely to take on yard work. 

Women shoulder more responsibilities at home than men. (Graphic source: UBS Investor Pulse Survey)

The still-prevalent gender wage gap has also been a key factor in determining who will leave their job when times get tough. The average American woman still only makes 80 cents to a man’s dollar. This means when one spouse is needed at home, women will unfortunately be more likely to sideline their own careers during these difficult times. 

Is there a silver lining? 

While the survey shows how women’s careers have suffered due to COVID-19, one silver lining from the pandemic is that women are showing signs of being more engaged in their finances.

In the survey, nearly 70% of women said they are discussing money more with their partner and nearly half said they are discussing inheritance with their kids.

Women are discussing finances more with family. (Graphic source: UBS Investor Pulse Survey)

The pandemic has brought on a sense of urgency for people. Families have begun to reflect and consider the “what-ifs.” These concerns for the future have prompted many women to consider what would happen if they lost their job or if something happened to their spouse. As a result, more women are talking about finances and engaging with their money. 

However the survey also shows that there is a gap between intention and action for many. Survey data showed that while 40% of women indicated in May that they were considering reviewing their financial situation, only 12% have done so, resulting in a 28% gap between intention and action. The other numbers in the table above also reflect similar gaps, showing that there is still much work to be done in regards to how women approach and engage with their finances. 

effects of COVID-19 on women’s careers

Working from home has its benefits. (Graphic source: UBS Investor Pulse Survey)

Lastly, the effects of COVID-19 on women’s careers have not all been bad. More than half of the women surveyed revealed feeling good about working from home with 66% saying they plan to continue working from home more often. Additionally, 53% feel it is less stressful and around 60% cite that they are more productive and have a better work-life balance now. 

American Rescue Plan

How the $1.9 Trillion “American Rescue Plan” will help communities rebuild post-COVID

The twin disasters of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout have left families reeling from sickness, unemployment, and increases in food anxiety. Communities of color have especially been disproportionately affected. In December alone 140,000 jobs were lost, a majority of which were held by women and people of color. As President Biden steps into office, it is crucial that these issues be addressed with the recovery plan that will aim to combat these crises. 

American Rescue Plan

financial economy recovery after coronavirus impact design

Communities of color disproportionately affected

Since April, workers of color have faced the highest rates of pandemic-related unemployment. Data shows that Black and Latino people are now facing greater rates of unemployment than during the 2008 Great Recession. 

Additionally, people of color are heavily represented in industries that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic such as: service, production, transportation, construction, and maintenance occupations. And those who do have jobs are more likely to be employed in high-risk, high contact front-line positions, disproportionately increasing their risk of exposure to COVID-19.

With communities suffering through economic and health crises and unemployment rates at a record high, it’s clear that extensive recovery efforts will be needed to turn the tides. 

When speaking on the issue, Alejandra Castillo, CEO of YWCA USA and former National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency for the Obama Administration said:  

“We know from the past that we cannot just invest at the top and hope for trickle-down impact, this pandemic has amplified what many of us on the ground already knew: that women and communities of color have long faced social and structural infrastructure divestment. We need to re-imagine the health and prosperity of communities and build a comprehensive social and physical infrastructure plan that will create well-paying jobs. To truly do this we need to play to where the future of our economy is going as well as the future of work.”

As President Biden begins to enact recovery measures and legislation, economic security will be a top concern. Additionally job creation will be critical in the post-COVID future as vulnerable communities continue to face insurmountable challenges. 

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Biden’s “American Rescue Plan” Highlights 

As a first step toward addressing the nation’s economic and health crises, President Joe Biden has laid out a $1.9 trillion emergency recovery plan. 

The wide-ranging package entitled the “American Rescue Plan” aims to combat the twin crises with provisions delivering direct aid to American families, businesses and communities, and a major focus on COVID testing and vaccine production and delivery.

The “American Rescue Plan” will provide emergency measures to meet the nation’s immediate economic and health-care needs, to be followed in February by a broader relief plan. 

Biden’s proposal is divided into three major areas: $400 billion for provisions to fight COVID-19 with more vaccines and testing, while reopening schools; more than $1 trillion in direct relief to families, including through stimulus payments and increased unemployment insurance benefits; and $440 billion for aid to communities and businesses, including $350 billion in emergency funding to state, local and tribal governments.

The proposal would also increase stimulus payments from $600 to $1,400 per person. Additionally, the plan would expand a tax credit for children to $3,600 a year per child under 6, as well as $3,000 a year for children under 17. It would also extend eligibility for the credit to millions of very poor families and would dramatically boost the Earned Income Tax Credit, a benefit for workers, from $530 to $1,500.

 Other new initiatives in the recovery plan include: 

  • A combined 14 weeks of paid sick and family medical leave for millions of workers
  •  Grants to more than 1 million small businesses, 
  • $35 billion toward making low-interest loans available
  • Increase the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour 
  • And fund other necessary relief efforts such as food and water assistance, food stamps, and funding for U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico

Biden has also called for an increase in federal unemployment benefits, from $300 per week to $400 per week for millions of jobless Americans. These benefits would also be extended through September, preventing millions of people from losing their jobless aid in March under current law.

These are only first steps, and there is clearly much work to be done to reverse the economic and health crises that have devastated the nation and its most vulnerable communities. 

Latina worker

Record job losses in December push women out of the workforce en mass

This time last year, we were living in a pre-COVID-19 world. In this world, for three months, something rare happened in the workforce that had only only occurred one other time in history, nearly a decade ago: women held more jobs than men in the U.S. economy. However, the COVID-19 pandemic quickly changed this narrative, leading to record job losses for women. 

Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay

Shocking gender gap in December job losses 

New data released last week has revealed that in December employers cut 140,000 jobs. A closer look at the data also reveals a shocking gender gap: Women accounted for all the job losses, losing 156,000 jobs, while men gained 16,000. Of course many men lost jobs as well in December, but when taken together as a group, they came out ahead while women fell behind. 

Additionally, a separate survey-study of households, which included self-employed workers, showed a wider gender disparity in the workforce while also revealing a significant racial and ethnic disparity: Black and Latina women made up the majority of job losses, while White women made significant gains. 

Racial and ethnic disparity in the workforce 

Black and Latina women disproportionately work in some of the hardest-hit sectors in the pandemic. These positions often lack paid sick leave and the ability to work from home, putting Black and Latina women and families at an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. As schools and daycares closed due to the virus, many women were forced to make the hard choice between work and parenting. In many situations, women chose to leave their careers to take on primary care-giving roles in the home, especially if there was an employed male in the household. 

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Overall, women are still down 5.4 million jobs from February, before the pandemic began, as compared to 4.4 million job losses for men. At the start of 2020 men and women were roughly on equal footing, with women holding 50.03% of jobs. However by the end of 2020 the gender disparity in the workforce now shows that women hold 860,000 fewer jobs than their male peers. 

This gap is largely due to increased job losses in three sectors: education — which remains a female-dominated industry — hospitality, and retail. All of these industries have been greatly affected by the pandemic.

In December, restaurants and bars cut the most jobs by far, and part-time workers were hit especially hard. 

Among women, Latinas currently have the highest unemployment rate at 9.1%, followed by Black women at 8.4%. White women have the lowest unemployment rate at 5.7%.

As we continue into 2021, we must work toward recuperating these losses for women in the workforce and create better opportunities.