At least 1.8 million women have left the workforce amid the COVID-19 pandemic since lockdown began almost two years ago. Most of these women took leave from their jobs in order to care for their children while they were home from school. Moreover, Hispanic and Black women account for the majority of this decreased participation of women in the working world.
Having withdrawn from the labor force, these women now face the question of when, or even if, they should return. Their careers are not likely to be waiting for them, as the working world has transformed immensely since these women parted with their professions.
In addition to the struggles that women face as they attempt to re-enter the working world, the fact that more women left their jobs than men reveals our society’s commitment to traditional gender norms. This trend, in which women sacrifice their careers and withdraw from the labor force while men continue to work, suggests that women’s careers are less important than men’s. This practice sets a dangerous precedent that whenever necessary women will set aside their aspirations to bear the caregiving responsibilities of their households.
Nearly half of all women have admitted that the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected their intended career path and one in five women were expelled from the labor force altogether. In order to achieve true gender equity in our society, women must be regarded as equally valuable in the working world as men. Women absolutely have the choice to leave the labor force if it is their personal preference; however, they should not be forced out of their careers based on the traditional conception of women as natural-born caregivers. It is possible for a woman to have both a successful career and a fulfilling family life.
There are strategies that we, as a society, can use to help women return or remain in the workforce. Only one in five women suggested that their employers genuinely outline boundaries between work time and personal time. Additionally, making child support services such as daycare and preschool more accessible and affordable would provide more women with the opportunity to work. Changing the culture of the labor force is key to resolving gender inequality and instilling a renewed sense of purpose in working women, which would give them more reason to return to the jobs they left at the beginning of the pandemic.
Cassella, Megan. “The Pandemic Drove Women out of the Workforce. Will They Come Back?” POLITICO, POLITICO, 6 Aug. 2021, www.politico.com/news/2021/07/22/coronavirus-pandemic-women-workforce-500329.
Kochhar, Rakesh, and Jesse Bennett. “U.S. Labor Market Inches Back from the COVID-19 Shock, but Recovery Is Far from Complete.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 14 Apr. 2021, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/04/14/u-s-labor-market-inches-back-from-the-covid-19-shock-but-recovery-is-far-from-complete/.
Liu, Jennifer. “Nearly 2 in 3 Women Who Left the Workforce during Covid Plan to Return-and Most Want to Enter This Field.” CNBC, CNBC, 27 Oct. 2021, www.cnbc.com/2021/10/26/nearly-2-in-3-women-who-left-the-workforce-during-covid-plan-to-return.html.
Cover Image via https://blog.vantagecircle.com/women-in-the-workplace/