ROCHESTER, NY (WROC) – As the pandemic enters its third year, women continue to be excluded from the workforce.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, more than 4 million jobs in the United States have been lost since February 2020, and women account for more than half of those losses. Meanwhile, one in three women has considered leaving or changing jobs in the past year.
Why is this happening? A few reasons. COVID-19 has not only stepped up the work, but it has also stepped up the pressures around childcare and housework.
Amit Batabyl, Arthur J. Gosnell professor of economics at the Rochester Institute of Technology, said “disproportionate duties” have fallen on women’s shoulders.
“When I say disproportionate homework, I mean things like looking after the elderly, looking after children and just household chores in general. Women tend to do more of these things than men, even in the absence of any type of pandemic, ”Batabyl said.
“But in a pandemic, especially when you have kids at home because their schools are closed, or other people say elderly parents or loved ones can’t get around on their own and need to. surveillance, these activities fall disproportionately on women. “said Batabyl.
Maranne McDade Clay, executive director of the Women’s Foundation of Genesee Valley, said a “major exodus” of women from the workforce occurred in the fall of 2021, when many students had to learn remotely.
“I’ve had so many anecdotal stories of women who kept their children at home the first week after vacation, after school vacation, because they wanted to keep their families healthy. We have to have understanding employers, we have to have understanding employees, ”McDade said.
But it’s not just the kids who don’t go to school that are the problem. Finding reliable and affordable child care is also the cause of the number of women leaving the workforce.
“Full-time care of a child under a toddler, which represents a higher rate of care and higher fees, is in the order of $ 15,000 as a full fee. per year, ”McDade said. “If you think of a starting salary for someone of $ 50,000 and $ 15,000 up front, the reality is that while we don’t support or subsidize more child care quality, we are losing people in the workforce who cannot afford to take this economic hit from the cost of child care.
Member of Parliament Sarah Clark is a mother of three and has seen firsthand the challenges of finding affordable child care.
“I always say child care is a math equation that doesn’t work, right? Families cannot afford to pay more, providers are not being reimbursed at their true cost, and our child care workforce is not paid enough to stay. You can make more money at a fast food restaurant right now than as an educator, ”Clark said.
To help make access to child care easier and more affordable for families, Clark has sponsored numerous pieces of legislation.
In December, Governor Kathy Hochul enacted Bill Clark A.5480, which allows “Social service districts must pay child care providers by direct deposit for any subsidized child care funds owed. Currently, child care providers are paid by paper check in the mail, which can often delay payments by four to six weeks. Clark said this can be a burden for suppliers operating on low margins.
Clark is also currently working on a bill with Senator Jessica Ramos that would make child care more affordable.
“The first thing we need to do is create a subsidy system that pays more like the true cost of care,” Clark said. “We’re basing it on the market rate, which is sort of an arbitrary kind of, you know, what child care providers are offering right now. And so that hasn’t really changed over the years because it’s just a rate that they charge and everybody’s afraid to, you know, charge more because families can afford it.
She adds that, along with increased subsidies, paying childminders and childcare providers more than a minimum wage should be a priority.
“Then we start to have to put that money back to pay the daycare staff more, to bring them in line with the teachers, these are people who care,” Clark said. “Child care workers and staff are how my kids learned to nap on a schedule and to eat. I am so grateful for them, but we have to pay them more.
McDade adds that more needs to be done to help single female households as well. The Women’s Foundation says that 30% of all families in the Finger Lakes region are headed by single women, which represents more than 40,000 households. About 10,000 of these single parent families headed by women live below the poverty line.
“The Single Women’s Home is the crux of poverty in our region and provides childcare support and assistance to enable women to get the job training and employment opportunities they want and from. need, as well as the education and skills training they want, only benefits everyone, ”she said.
As more women leave the workforce for whatever reason, experts say it will likely hurt the economy.
“If quality and talented workers, whether women or men, leave the workforce for reasons such as unaffordable child care or the lack of ability to find quality child care, then the economy as a whole is losing out on the talents of these people. , who are currently disproportionately female, who could do a lot in their work environment, ”Batabyl said.
He adds that if more women leave their jobs, it could also impact younger women looking to take on new positions or roles.
“Young women entering the workforce would like to see people they can aspire to and who can serve as role models. And if older women leave the labor market, then there is this additional negative aspect, which affects younger women when they work or join the labor market, ”Batabyl said.
Clark adds that it’s important to have women in the workforce because they can bring unique perspectives and problem-solving skills.
“In business, we’ve seen that if you have women on boards, if you have diversity in your room, more companies are successful. I mean we’re the first buyers of things, having people who know how our minds work is helpful in making your business thrive, ”said Clark.
According to a McKinsey and Company report, 42% of women said they felt exhausted from their jobs in 2021, up from 32% in 2020. The burnout gap between men and women nearly doubled during the pandemic.
For women of color, burnout can be even worse. According to a Washington Post report, 91,000 black women left the workforce in November, and black and Hispanic women continue to experience high unemployment rates throughout the year.
Locally, there are a number of local non-profit organizations across the region that support women in their career transitions and back into the workforce.
You can check out the Women’s Foundation by clicking here, or visit the Rochester Women’s Network here.