PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The coronavirus pandemic has created devastating ripple effects, leaving millions without a job and forcing others to decide if they can manage their careers.
Experts said women are taking the brunt of the economic fallout. The New York Times dubbed it a “she-cession.”
“Prior to this, life was good, women were doing great.”
Women are slowly gaining their jobs back after COVID-19 shut down the economy, but men are finding more success in re-entering the workforce, according to data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
If this trend continues, experts say it will worsen gender inequity.
“Prior to this, life was good,” said Francina Harrison, a local career advisor. “Women were doing great.”
Harrison operates her own career business called “The Career Engineer.”
Enter the novel coronavirus and the economic recession it’s caused.
“What’s interesting in this particular downturn, a lot of the industries women work were impacted,” said Harrison.
COVID struck the retail, tourism and hospitality industries.
“Women are the ones that are the heart and mind of the family,”
The economic fallout disproportionately affected women who made up 55 percent of pandemic-related job loss in April, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
With growing responsibilities at home, that’s forcing some women to make difficult choices about their careers.
“Women are the ones that are the heart and mind of the family,” said Leah Sechong, a Virginia Beach resident.
Sechong works for the Navy, processing retirements. She, like many others, transformed her home into her office.
Her responsibilities at home aren’t limited to work.
“I’m taking care of an elderly parent. My ex-mother-in-law lives with me,” she said.
“Women have been the ones who take care of the family members, so the caregiver role that a lot of us have I mean whether you’re a married woman or a single mom,” Harrison said. “The schools closed, what are you supposed to do? Or you’re maybe taking care of an elder person in your family. So, someone had to make that choice: family or job.”
In fact, one in five working-age adults had to make that choice. It’s a decision women are three times more likely to make than men, according to the Census Bureau.
“It’s hard mentally and physically. It’s really hard,” said Sechong. “So, that’s why I’m glad at my work. We were able to be flexible.”
Experts said the “she-cession” could further widen the gap of gender equality and wipe out 30 years of progress, unless the government steps in to help.
“The systemic things that were happening all these years really came up to a head,” Harrison said. “Policies have been enacted to help with the bleeding, but what’s going to happen in 2021? I think now that we’re seeing the light, for lack of a better term, polices are going to be coming in place to deal with this.”
So, how can we as a society fix this?
Harrison suggests on a local level, employers can find ways to bridge the gender gap in their own workplaces.
Others say lawmakers need to act fast and ensure more families have better access to childcare.