Giving Compass' Take:
- The COVID-19 pandemic has had an intense impact on working mothers, especially as they shoulder the responsibilities of caregiving and face financial burdens during an economic recession.
- How can policy changes help working mothers during this time? How can donors help advocate for working moms?
- Read why working moms are at risk of being left behind in economic recovery.
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COVID-19 is hard on women because the U.S. economy is hard on women, and this virus excels at taking existing tensions and ratcheting them up. Millions of women were already supporting themselves and their families on meager wages before coronavirus-mitigation lockdowns sent unemployment rates skyrocketing and millions of jobs disappeared. And working mothers were already shouldering the majority of family caregiving responsibilities in the face of a childcare system that is wholly inadequate for a society in which most parents work outside the home. Of course, the disruptions to daycare centers, schools, and afterschool programs have been hard on working fathers, but evidence shows working mothers have taken on more of the resulting childcare responsibilities, and are more frequently reducing their hours or leaving their jobs entirely in response.
Problems facing women in the labor market have never been hidden, but they have been inconvenient to address because they are so entrenched in the basic operations of our economy and society. The low wages associated with “pink collar” occupations have long contributed to the feminization of poverty, and the chronic shortage of affordable, high-quality childcare reflects outdated notions of women’s societal roles, how the economy functions, and child development. COVID-19’s massive disruption to employment, childcare, and school routines has crippled the economy and pushed millions of women and families to the financial brink. This moment provides an important opening to rethink how policy supports women’s roles as financial providers and parents.
Based on our own analysis of 2018 American Community Survey data, before COVID-19, nearly half of all working women—46% or 28 million—worked in jobs paying low wages, with median earnings of only $10.93 per hour. The share of workers earning low wages is higher among Black women (54%) and Hispanic or Latina women (64%) than among white women (40%), reflecting the structural racism that has limited options in education, housing, and employment for people of color.
Read the full article about how COVID-19 impact working women by Nicole Bateman and Martha Ross at Brookings.