Representative Katie Porter (D-Calif.) is calling attention to how the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women and mothers. According to a new report from the congresswoman's office, 22% perfect of all women have left the labor force since the pandemic began. To be clear, 1 in 5 women in America has been pushed out of the workforce since March.
In her report, "The Burden of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Women in the Workforce," Rep. Porter points out that American job losses are concentrated in industries with the highest proportion of women in the workforce, especially women of color. "Nine of the ten industries that saw the most jobs lost are in the service sector, including women-dominated professions such as performing arts, sightseeing, hotels, and retail. As a result, mothers experienced greater initial increases in unemployment as compared to fathers," she wrote. Consider these alarming statistics: of the more than 1.1 million Americans who lost jobs during the month of September, 80% were women. One study found that 42% of women with children under the age of two have been forced to leave the workforce since March. Porter's study also found that mothers "were more likely than fathers to reduce their work hours, take a leave of absence from work, transition to part time employment, or take other measures to reduce their work time and commitment." A major reason mothers are falling behind is the closures of daycares and schools. "The support system that previously made full-time work and childcare possible for women has been upended," writes Porter. "According to one study, mothers in states where schools shut down this spring were 68.8 percent more likely to take time off from work than mothers in states where schools were still open. School closures had no effect on whether fathers or women without children were working." Women are also returning to the workforce at a slower rate then men. Of the women who have been able to secure jobs, many are white. "According to a Washington Post analysis of August employment data, white women have recovered 61 percent of the jobs they lost in the early months of the pandemic, whereas Black women have recovered only 34 percent." Rep. Porter argues that without legislative action, a generation of mothers could be left out of the workforce. "Congress and the Administration must act now to support the safe reopening of childcare centers and schools, replace lost wages, support families, and make care more affordable and accessible. Employers must adjust their business models to accommodate the additional pressures women, and especially mothers, are experiencing in the workplace," she writes. "Without a response and recovery effort that focuses on women and families, the glaring disparities between men and women in the workplace are likely to deepen and last for generations. To restore our economy and maximize our economic potential, we need a recovery plan that supports working women and families."