The last twelve months have been particularly devasting for working women. The economic effects of the pandemic have compounded preexisting inequalities, and women lost their jobs in disproportionate numbers. Prior to the pandemic, women made up around 49% of the workforce. As of February 2021, the economy has seen a net loss of 9.5 million jobs over the past year, with women accounting for nearly 5.1 million of those losses.

The problem is bigger than helping women go back to their old employers or careers. Numerous jobs simply don’t exist anymore. Whole industries have sat at a standstill, and many businesses have closed their doors permanently. This issue is larger than any one company, but as an employer, there are some simple things you can do help.

The Big Picture

While this moment in history has been difficult for all Americans, some groups are hurting more than others. COVID-19 has hit working women particularly hard, undoing years of painstaking progress towards gender diversity in the workplace. In December 2020, women accounted for 100% of net unemployment.

Entertainment, hospitality, retail, and food service have all been heavily impacted by pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, and they are also industries where women make up the bulk of the workforce. The businesses that have managed to stay open are running with skeleton crews, and the general state of the economy means there aren’t enough other jobs to go around.

With schools and daycares around the country closed, parents have had to make hard decisions. Particularly as the months drew on and many workplaces reopened, often one parent would be forced to reduce their hours or even quit their jobs. Since women still make less than their male counterparts, more mothers have had to make the choice to put their careers on hold.

What Can Employers Do?

  • Start by educating your self on this issue – So you’re off to a great start! Just being aware of the issues and educating the employees involved in employment decisions can make a difference. You can only fix problems you know about.
  • When filtering job applicants, don’t write a candidate off just because of a pandemic employment gap on their resume. We know that many strong employees have had to leave the workforce during this time, and unemployment, particularly during this time, does not indicate a deficiency in work ethic.
  • Be accommodating. women have disproportionately reduced their hours or left the job market to care for children. Provide as much flexibility as possible with any given position and be sure to open the lines of communication with prospective applicants.
  • Make an effort to increase the number of women applicants. While you cannot set hiring or applicant quotas, you can advertise your open position on job boards, communities, and media outlets that cater to women. You can also include details about the accommodations that will be available.

While the pandemic has disrupted all our lives and transformed our economy, it has also shined a light our resilience and ingenuity. With the vaccine rollout in progress, people are more eager than ever to move past this chapter and move ahead. This energy, coupled with government stimulus, has set us up for a period of economic expansion. The private sector will be one of the key drivers of the recovery, and its within our power to keep Americans from being left behind.