In past recessions, industries like manufacturing and construction were often the hardest hit. For example, some economists referred to the Great Recession as a “man-cession” because at the outset, more men lost jobs than women. In some households, wives were able to find employment more often than men. The recovery, however, favored men, who regained 5.5 million jobs compared to 3.6 million jobs by women.1
Today’s pandemic-led economic crisis appears to be taking a different route: Women, to date, are taking on a larger financial toll. As society has progressed, ongoing gender inequities in income and opportunity are having a far more wide-reaching impact. That’s because today, 71% of American households with children rely on women’s income for their financial well-being.2
Going forward, it may be important for people to consider their work roles and how they might weather similar crises in the future. After all, just as we diversify our investment portfolios to help protect assets, households may need to consider alternative sources of income, such as passive income streams, either through assets or other income opportunities. Give us a call if you’d like to explore this further.
The social distancing mandates characterized by COVID-19 have resulted in higher levels of female unemployment due to their concentration in jobs that require close physical contact, such as dental and medical assistants, home health aides, hair stylists and manicurists. Women also tend to work more part-time jobs, which are often the first to be laid off, and may work jobs that do not offer paid vacation or paid sick leave. Even among women who continue to earn income during this difficult period, they are generally paid less. In aggregate, women earn 69 cents for every dollar men earn.3
With schools and daycare centers shuttered nationwide, many working mothers must stay home to care for their children — particularly since care normally provided by grandparents, friends or neighbors is discouraged or prevented by shelter-in-place orders. Among essential services workers expected to remain on the job, nine out of 10 nurses and nursing assistants are women, and more than two-thirds of workers at supermarkets and fast food chains are women — so their health (and that of their families when they return home) is at higher risk.4
Some of the problems women are facing right now go beyond the economic. With people spending more time at home, there are reports of increased domestic violence. Women also require more preventive health and reproductive care, so the suspension of regular doctor’s office and well-woman visits could lead to late diagnosis of health conditions and unmonitored pregnancies.5
Generation X women, ages 40 to 55, are particularly stretched and stressed out during this difficult time. That’s because many were already sandwiched between taking care of children at home and supporting their elderly parents. Now that they are sheltering in place while trying to juggle work and home schooling, coupled by the strain of not being able to interact socially with older parents, this is bound to take a huge toll both mentally and physically.6
On the other hand, sometimes out of the ashes of great loss rises a phoenix, and such an opportunity for women could exist in this circumstance. First is the recognition of how much women’s roles contribute to the fabric of society, in terms of income, consumerism, nurturing and vital jobs — now known as “essential services.” Many husbands at home with the kids may now be realizing the extent to which their wives juggle managing a job, raising children, taking care of elderly family members and most household duties. Hopefully this appreciation will extend beyond the pandemic and outside the household, leading to more equitable pay and policies.
And then there’s likely to be a global recognition of which countries responded best to the pandemic and prevented the most deaths and economic impact. Already, the leaders of Taiwan, Germany and New Zealand are being credited for the greatest success due to early, quick action. While only 7% of the world’s leaders are female, each of these countries is led by a woman.7
1Arne L. Kalleberg and Till M. Von Wachter. National Center for Biotechnology Information. April 2017. “The U.S. Labor Market During and After the Great Recession: Continuities and Transformations.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5959048/. Accessed April 27, 2020.
2 NBC News. March 23, 2020. “Gender economist Katica Roy: If we don’t act fast, women will bear the brunt of the financial crisis caused by coronavirus.” https://www.nbcnews.com/know-your-value/feature/gender-economist-katica-roy-if-we-don-t-act-fast-ncna1166771. Accessed April 27, 2020.
4 Knowledge@Wharton. April 21, 2020. “Why the U.S. Economic Downturn Could Hurt Women More.” https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/economic-downturn-hurt-women/. Accessed April 27, 2020.
5 Julia Travers. Inside Philanthropy. April 28, 2020. “Women Face Amplified Risks in the Pandemic. Funders Are Responding.” https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2020/4/28/women-face-multiple-challenges-in-the-pandemic-funders-are-responding. Accessed April 28, 2020.
6 S. Mitra Kalita. CNN. April 20, 2020. “Gen X women were already exhausted, then came a pandemic.” https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/20/health/generation-x-coronavirus-calhoun-kalita-wellness/index.html. Accessed April 27, 2020.
7 Leta Hong Fincher. CNN. April 16, 2020. “Women leaders are doing a disproportionately great job at handling the pandemic. So why aren’t there more of them?” https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/14/asia/women-government-leaders-coronavirus-hnk-intl/index.html. Accessed April 27, 2020.
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