Pandemic Undoes Years of Progress for Female Work Force

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As millions of Americans struggle with pandemic related job loss, the numbers show women are taking the biggest hit with some going as far as calling the economic downturn a ‘shecession.’

"I spent the last eight-plus years in corporate marketing for pretty big companies,” said Rachel Vance.

More than a decade after graduating amid the Great Recession, Rachel Vance felt she had hit a stride.

She was married, newly settled in Dallas, had welcomed a baby and had accepted a job with Hilton.

"I kind of thought that I was on a trajectory,” said Vance.

Then COVID-19 hit, and her industry was one of the first to fall.

“Obviously travel was and hospitality could not coexist with the shutdowns,” said Vance. “Pretty soon into that, it was clear that the recovery wasn't going to happen that quickly, so we were kind of expecting some news, and it was in July that the big round of layoffs happened."

Unlike previous economic downturns, including the one in which Vance first began her career, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this one disproportionately took aim at women who accounted for 55% of pandemic related job loss in April.

That led the New York Times to first coin the phrase ‘shecession.’

Dallas-based esthetician Alexandria White was pregnant when she was let go in May.

"My little girl was born in July when everything was spiking, so even if I wanted to go back to work, I didn't feel like it was safe enough for that to happen. So my partner and I sat down and we basically came up with a plan like, ‘Yeah. For the next X amount of years, I'm going to stay home’," said White.

White’s decision is one the Census Burea says has been made by one in five working-age adults during this unprecedented time and women are three times as likely to make.

"We're like the child bearers and the resilient leaders of this world, yet we're not protected or supported for a significant time such as this,” said White.

Still, both women consider themselves to be among the lucky ones in dual-income households where they don't have to worry about whether they'll be able to pay the bills or put food on the table.

But for their gender as a whole, the consequences could be grim.

Over the summer, the International Monetary Fund warned that without government action, the pandemic could undo 30 years of progress in closing gender wage and opportunity gaps.

"It makes me wonder, is that kind of a consequence of the fact that we don't have women that are in roles high enough up in these companies? That when layoffs happen, you know, at a ground floor level are we disproportionately getting rid of women, because we haven't invested enough in their careers?" said Vance.

According to a new analysis from the National Women's Law Center, nearly 2.2 million women left the labor force between February and October due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The jobs report for October showed women only gained about 44% of the jobs added to the economy, despite making up nearly 50% of the total workforce.

For resources related to job loss and unemployment, visit the Texas Workforce Commission.

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