I had a conversation with a good friend of mine who is a high school teacher. Since the pandemic began she has been working 14 hour days, creating classroom sessions for in-school learning and remote, answering parents questions and helping students. In the meantime she is helping her elderly mother, helping her children with remote learning, feeding her family, cleaning the house, doing laundry, and still finding time to walk the dog. She is tired and overwhelmed. She often thinks about quitting her job because the pressure is too much.
This is typical for many working women during the pandemic. Women are leaving the workforce in droves as a result of COVID 19. According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics 2.2 million women left the workforce from March 2020 to September 2020. “ The Pandemics female exodus has decidedly turned back the clock by at least a generation with the share of women in the workforce down levels not seen since 1988,” according to an October 2020 NPR report, “Stuck-At-Home -Moms. The Pandemics Devastating Toll On Women.”
Another issue is there has been a large portion of job losses for women in many businesses such as hotels, restaurants, retail trade and yes, even education….all sectors with high female employment. Many of those who lost jobs are trapped in a downward spiral. There is the loss of prospects for another job, loss of income, security and even the risk of eviction.
Economist are calling this phenomena Pink Collar Recession— a cute name for a real problem.
The reality for women in the United States has been filled with work and family obligations. Women have been the primary caregivers for their families. This has remained true even while women work outside the household. A Brookings study found that in households with school-age children 44% of women during COVID see themselves as being solely responsible for their children’s daytime care. This includes making lunches, helping with classroom log-ins, making sure the kids are doing their online work and figuring out any Zoom or IT issues. Most of this occurring while they are trying to work remotely and focus on their own careers.
The current crisis did create new assistance programs, including The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) AND Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES). FFRCA provides three months of parental leave. CARES Act is a resource aimed to reduce poverty rates. It is a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill. These initiatives proved to be temporary fixes rather than viable solutions.
There is a silver lining. Economist, schools, work places, and child care agencies are advocating for workable family leave plans, improved access to jobs through family friendly policies, to compensate women fairly, improve working conditions, create better alignment with childcare and school systems. We need to support women who are breadwinners for their families.