Time Magazine called it a “she-cession,” while another term floating around is “wexit.”
But clever wordsmithery aside, the ripple effects of this blow to the workforce are going to take years, if not a generation, to overcome. Just before the pandemic, in January 2020, women had edged out men in the workforce by a tiny percentage, giving hope to an eventual move toward workplace equity, at least in practice if not in profit. Women still lag men in pay, with a woman earning anywhere from 53 cents to 85 cents on the dollar compared to the average man.
The factors contributing to this exodus are complex, bringing a different and darker meaning to the cliché “women and children first.” It’s the workforce pandemic no one saw coming:
- More than 5.4 million women’s jobs have been eliminated from the U.S. workforce between February 2020 – January 2021.
- Since March 2020, at least 2.3 million women have left the U.S. workforce, compared to 1.8 million men.
- 76% of mothers with children under age 10 say child care is one of their top three challenges during COVID-19, compared to 54% of fathers with young children.
- Since March 2020, 28% of women with kids under age 18 at home have temporarily or permanently left the workforce to become a primary caregiver to children, compared to 10% of men.
- Women of color are being hit disproportionately hard with 9.1% of Latinas and 8.4% of Black women unemployed, compared to 5.7% of white women.
- More than 2 in 5 of the 12.2 million women’s jobs lost between February and April 2020 have not yet returned.
But this is just temporary, right? Once we hit our economic stride, get vaccinated, reopen schools, and get back to normal, the women will come back...right? Not necessarily. The problems contributing to the “she-cession” are multifaceted, and many have been building long before the pandemic.
Some are systemic issues requiring legislative or more holistic national action that will take years to implement. Still, there are definitely actionable steps employers can take to make their workplaces more female-friendly in the near future.
Beyond the ideals of workplace equity and empathy, there’s a real bottom-line incentive to getting and keeping women at work: Increased female labor force participation could accelerate U.S. GDP growth, adding a staggering $5.87 trillion to the global stock market in 10 years. Employers looking to take a share of that growth and put a stopgap in the “she-cession” can best put their investment and energy into four key areas.
To find out those key areas, check out our white paper below.