The Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone in some way, but women have been hit the hardest economically.
In the U.S. and abroad, women have disproportionately lost jobs and income. More women are low-wage workers whose jobs are more likely to have been furloughed or eliminated. Or if they managed to keep their jobs, the demands of child care have often forced many to give up work to care for children. And for those who work from home, with schools closed, women have often taken on more domestic duties—such as cooking, cleaning, and childcare—than men, making doing their jobs even more difficult.
And as we continue to celebrate Women’s History Month, we examine the implications these job losses have not just for women, but for the entire economy.
The pandemic’s outsize impact on women
In December, 2020 alone 100% of the job losses in the U.S. were women. Women lost 156,000 jobs in that month, while men gained 16,000.
And during the first months of the economic shutdowns, when 20.5 million people lost their jobs, women were affected most when businesses closed their doors, losing more than half of jobs. (Women lost 5.3 million jobs, compared to 4.6 million jobs for men.)
Here’s how that breaks down in some key sectors and industries:
Source: CNBC, May, 2020
One reason women are dropping out of the labor force more than men is reportedly the increased demand for child care at home, while schools and daycare facilities close. This trend is especially true for women of color. “This crisis continues to have a racially disparate impact, and to really hit hardest Black women and Latinas who are doing jobs we can’t do from home,” Emily Martin, vice president for education and workplace justice at the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) told Fortune Magazine. Martin says that women of color are more likely to work jobs that don’t allow them to work from home and care for their children simultaneously. Workforce participation fell 2.4% among white women with children, 3.8% among Hispanic women with children, and 6.4% among Black women with children.
The negative impact of the pandemic on women’s employment isn’t just happening in the U.S., but all over the world. Women’s jobs are nearly twice as vulnerable as men’s, according to a July, 2020, study from consulting firm McKinsey & Company. And although 39% of jobs throughout the world are held by women, 54% of those who have lost jobs globally are women.
These job losses could be a drain on the global economy, with global GDP growth expected to fall by $1 trillion in the next nine years as women leave the workforce.
Women need more social support
But there is an alternative. Making changes now—during the pandemic—to increase gender equality both in the workplace and outside of it could mean $13 trillion in GDP growth by 2030, the same study found. Building better childcare infrastructure and increasing access to technology, for example, can create jobs and opportunities for women to advance. If those changes happen once the economy has recovered from the pandemic, that predicted growth would fall by $5 trillion.
Historically, women entering the workforce has been beneficial for economic growth. In the U.S., every 10% increase in the participation of women in the working world has resulted in 5% growth in median real wages for men and women, according to a Harvard Business Review July, 2018, study. Making employment more accessible to women may further that growth.
In order to achieve greater gender equality, legislators need to improve the solutions in place for working parents to allow them to work and take care of their children, says a Brookings Institution report. Designing a greater and more affordable childcare infrastructure could allow mothers to more easily return to work after having children, according to a February, 2021, study from American Progress.
This study urges legislators to increase wages, including raising the federal minimum wage to close the gender wage gap. The report also pushes for increased protections for women, LGBTQ people, people of color, and people with disabilities in the workplace.
There seems to be some acknowledgment from government policymakers that increased support is necessary for women. Jerome Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, the nation’s central bank, suggested in February, 2021, that legislation setting up infrastructure for childcare could help improve the circumstances for working women. And in his campaign, President Biden called for increased workplace protections for women and measures to close the wage gap between men and women.
Stash supports Women’s History Month
Stash hopes to provide financial knowledge and tools to help women start building wealth and make the most of their money.
With Stash, you can start saving for retirement by opening an individual retirement account1 (IRA) with just $1. You can also start investing in a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, and ETFs with any dollar amount.
For more resources on how Stash is supporting women during Women’s History Month, go here.