Pandemic may set women back for decades: report

The COVID-19 pandemic may have long-lasting consequences for women, a new report says

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As if the threat to health and livelihoods stemming from the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t enough, a new report suggests that the lasting impact might be devastating for women, in particular.

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Bloomberg reported Wednesday that for Black and Hispanic women those projections are even worse. They say more than 10% of Black and Hispanic women remain unemployed during the public health crisis and it’s unknown what the future may hold.

Black woman mask COVID
Close-up of three African American girls wearing surgical masks. 3 young women sitting together using coronavirus protection measures after or during quarantine. (Credit: Adobe Stock)

In May of this year alone, the unemployment rate for Black women, which had rebounded somewhat for white women, was $16.5%, the highest rate recorded since the 80s.

One of the reasons women may be more impacted post-pandemic is that many already earn less money than their male counterparts due to the persistent gender wage gap. And, as the COVID-19 virus has reduced primary school education to virtual learning, the people most likely to stay home with children are still women.

“We just cannot get out of this — the hole that we’re in — in any reasonable way, without doing huge scarring, without a much stronger care infrastructure,” Heidi Shierholz, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, told Bloomberg.

A healthcare worker gives a girl a throat swab test at a drive-in coronavirus (COVID-19) testing center at M.T.O. Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism on August 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The pandemic threatens to erase the progress of women who were getting closer to moving the needle on workforce participation and making strides to pay equality. According to reporting by Bloomberg, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the gap between women’s and men’s workforce participation between the ages of 25-54 had reached historic lows before the virus hit in March.

While virtual work has allowed some women to be flexible, ironically, the child care industry itself, which is 94% women, has been derailed by virus-mandated closures. And though working from home has helped some women with work-life balance, Wells Fargo and Co. senior economist Sarah House told Bloomberg it has one major drawback when it comes to promotions and raises.

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“Flexibility comes at a cost,” House said. “You’re not in the room.”

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