Turning Around the “Women’s Recession” – At this point in the pandemic, there are still more questions than there are answers. However, we do know that there has been severe economic fallout.
In the 9/30/2020 article published by Bloomberg, The First Female Recession Threatens to Wipe Out Decades of Progress for U.S. Women written by Olivia Rockeman, Reade Pickert, and Catarina Saraiva, the authors describe how this recession is different from previous ones. For the first time in a recession, women are more affected than men.
Not only have more women lost their jobs than men, more women are opting to stay home with children. Frequently there is no alternative daycare available and one parent must stay home. Women are giving up their jobs because they are paid less.
During past recessions, women have helped the recovery because they were able to return to work after years at home. Or they were able to increase their hours because they only worked part-time. Female dominated industries, like hospitality, have been hit the hardest. A slow recovery is expected.
How do we change this? How do we help women not lose the gains they’ve made in narrowing the wage gap over the last decade? What can we do to help them not fall behind in their careers?
How can we band together to find a solution to help working women, particularly those who homeschool children?
Answers are needed, and solutions need to be found.
Since the beginning of the shutdown, we have learned to narrow our connectivity and operate mostly within our primary pods. Working from home shrinks our circle of influence to our immediate families. Statistics show a rise in sales of larger homes as multi-generational living becomes more common again.
Perhaps this is part of the solution. Cohabitating with older relatives who aren’t working could help with childcare and school oversight. Many grandparents welcome spending more time with their grandchildren. And they may be economically stable enough to retire, thus affording them the wherewithal to assist more.
As our focus has turned to our individual families and staying at home more, there’s a resurgence of neighborhood connections. I had lived in my current house for three years at the time of the shut down. I only knew one neighbor by name. Despite walking the neighborhood for years, I rarely spoke to anyone. Now I see people chatting to one another, and I frequently engage in short conversations while out walking.
Not only are we getting outside more, we are engaging when we do.
This makes me wonder if we shouldn’t look closer to home for childcare alternatives. As we slowly move out of the tight lock down and start to understand the risks of the disease more, can we begin to safely share childcare and schooling oversight in our own neighborhoods? When my son was little, having neighbors to call on occasionally to watch him was a godsend. I was always happy to return the favor.
Would it be advantageous to set up a more formal agreement amongst those living nearby in similar situations? Perhaps one parent watches 4-5 children two mornings a week and another oversees their activities for a couple of afternoons. This would expand our pods slightly but would keep risks of infection lower than returning to classrooms. If someone gets sick, immediate quarantine could be implemented and contact tracing simplified.
The other issue, of course, is finding adequate employment for those who have lost their jobs. Some will probably be permanent losses and certainly career setbacks will threaten the gains we’ve seen in the wage gap.
Given that a disproportionate number of the job losses have been in low skill jobs, then I would encourage job training and redirecting women who are eager to return to work into alternate fields. There has been a shift in many industries due to the new way we are functioning. For example, more opportunities exist in warehouses and shipping than before.
Other fields have been on the rise and not negatively impacted, such as finance and technology. Opportunity for career advancement and higher wages exist in these industries.
Offering assistance to women working from home might help mitigate the concern about losing promotion opportunities. A large number of companies implemented remote work at the start of the shutdown. Some are planning to continue offering it as an option for the foreseeable future.
Learning how to adapt and not lose ground over the long term is critical to ensuring the wage gap doesn’t grow wider.
We talked a lot at the beginning of the pandemic about what our “new normal” would be like. We are still sorting that out, and probably will be for some time to come. Everyone learned to pivot at the beginning. Let’s pivot again to find that new normal and not end up with massive career and economic setbacks for women.
Finding alternatives to outside daycare, coming up with creative ways to oversee at home schooling, and retraining women for new jobs are all part of the solution. Offering alternative ideas and suggestions, as well as funding for these options, will all help us turn the women’s recession around and come out ahead in our goal of eliminating the wage gap.
Sherry Lutz Herrington is the owner of Sherrington Financial Fitness, a business consulting and accounting firm specializing in strategic business planning and solid financial accounting for businesses. She is also the author of Strong Women Thriving (https://strongwomenthriving.com/), a blog which focuses on empowering women to be financially savvy, particularly after experiencing financial abuse. Sherry is currently writing a new book that both shares her personal story and addresses financial abuse. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Join our FB group https://www.facebook.com/groups/womensurivingfinancialabuse