For times old and new, women have been stereotyped as the caregiver and have been often shown their place among pots and pans. It had taken decades for women to come out of the shell and assert their position in this world. Years of revolution, movements, and protests had finally given women what they deserved (to an extent) – the freedom to work and show their mettle. But the effort of all the work was turned to zilch when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, confining all within the walls of their homes.
As schools shut down and crèches stopped offering childcare services, the world came down on mothers to take an unwanted hiatus and take up the mantle of a caregiver. Every one in ten women has left jobs while as many as 2 million women have considered leaving the workforce altogether because of the COVID-19. That brings us to the alarming question.
What Led Women to Downshift Their Careers?
Most working women, especially mothers and senior-level women, are experiencing burnout. Even in the 21st century, when women take on leadership roles head-on, even the most accomplished women are expected to take care of children. However, their male counterparts often get away with the responsibilities.
Here are some prominent findings during the pandemic that show the plight of women.
Several mothers to quit the workforce
With children staying at home 24/7, childcare responsibilities have compelled several mothers to think about downshifting their careers. This is because the patriarchal society tends to judge mothers who choose work over childcare responsibilities more harshly than fathers. “There were times when I thought about quitting job and then realized that it was my first instinct to quit but never an option for my husband. That pinpointed the flaws in this so-called modern society out to me”, says Emilia Eckhart, the senior managing head at Allessaywriter.com.
Losing women in leadership
A vice president of a company and a mother of two mentions how she doesn’t have the time to catch a breath between attending meetings and offering assignment help to her children. She goes on to say how she doesn’t have the time to take a break. Several senior-level women have also felt the brunt of work pressure. This isn’t because women are any less capable of working under pressure. This is more because women have to write the grocery list, get the laundry done while delivering urgent files at work.
Mom Penalty vs. Dad Premium – The Curse
Women make 82 cents for every dollar their male counterpart earns. The gender pay gap plays a big role in why women have to quit jobs. Let me explain why! When a couple has to make a financial decision of leaving the workforce to handle things at home, the cursor naturally points towards women since they earn less. So, they are the ones who are expected to take the step back. This is known as the Mom Penalty as opposed to the lax Dad Premium.
This penalty affects more educated women with higher incomes more adversely. Moreover, the biological clock compels women to take time off or cut back on their working hours right when they are about to reach the pinnacle of their careers. This also gives men the opportunity to build a better career, move up the professional ladder and earn more.
Is this the 1988 Disaster for Women All Over Again?
Women have made great strides in every walk of life over the last few decades. The fact that more women have enrolled in college, medical schools, and law schools than their male counterparts is proof of that. Even the number of women in the US workforce overtook the ‘man force’ for a brief period earlier in 2020 before the pandemic hit the world.
According to labor economist Martha Gimbel, what is irksome is how only women have to make a choice between a household and a job – reducing working women’s careers to more of a hobby. Moreover, having a job and earning money gave women the freedom they craved for years. With women losing jobs, their footing and societal status sadly bite the dust.
As a result, the pandemic has taken the female exodus at least a generation back, with the number of women in the US workforce hitting an all-time low since 1988.Now, considering that the world would take another 99.5 years to achieve gender parity, COVID-19 just spilled water on decades of progress in the walks of gender equality.
These scars can linger, especially when the financial stability of women goes for a toss. Moreover, once the world is back to normal, this gap in employment gap can lead to a decrease in annual earnings by 39%, not to mention the difficulty of getting back into the workforce after taking a hiatus.
How is this Affecting the World Economy?
While the entire world is going through an unraveling phase due to the pandemic, it is women again who are bearing the brunt to the point of exhaustion. Women are not just burnt out due to the demanding duties of taking care of a family and a household, but they are facing the crunch financially too. Here are some statistical figures to give you a better picture:
- In August 2020, a staggering 865,000 women left the workforce in the USA alone. What is more shocking is that the figure is four times more than men. This phenomenon has been dubbed as a ‘shecession’ by economists.
- The women’s labor supply was 20% less in August than the pre-recession levels of February 2020. However, the men’s labor supply was 9% lower.
As more women decide to take to the side-line, the diversity of a country’s economy is sure to suffer a lot too when households lose half of their earnings. Other than winding back the clock on gender equity, this affects the society and the economy irreversibly as well.
This fall in the productive capacity of prime-age women could have long-term implications for potential growth and household incomes. If more women remain out of employment, it can stunt the economy’s potential growth rate to the point where we hit a worse economic depression.
How can companies Address The Core Challenges?
Organizations must revise their performance expectations into something more realistic and make amendments that suit the COVID-19 crisis. This will certainly help women create work-life boundaries. For example, setting definite hours for meetings is a great way to help working women cope with the work pressure while taking care of things at the house.
Let us always remember that the hand that rocks the cradle can rule the world. Make sure to give women the chance to shine. It is in unison that we will get what is best for the world.
See larger image