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Women — the epicenter of COVID-19 fallout

News & Events     Women continue to be the epicenter of COVID-19 fallout


Women continue to be the epicenter of COVID-19 fallout

The pandemic has been impacting women with children especially hard. This has been clear since June 2020 when women were disproportionately out of work and taken on increasing childcare burdens.footnote1 The problem has continued to grow as COVID-19 carries on.

More than 10 million women, or 17% of working women, rely on childcare to keep their children safe while they in contrast to only 12% of men who rely on the same systems.footnote2 And these systems are very expensive. Childcare costs more than 7% of household income in every state and is therefore considered unaffordable by the standards set out by the US government.footnote2 In addition to this, women spend 50% more time taking care of their children than men do when both parents work full time.footnote2 This increased emphasis on women taking care of their families is amplified during the pandemic where women are trying to balance work and childcare in uncertain times more than their male counterparts are.

In December 2020, women lost a total of 156,000 jobs while men gained 16,000 jobs.footnote3 This means that since February 2020, when the first case of COVID-19 was found in the US, women have lost 55% of all jobs. The imbalance is more pronounced at the industry level. In the hospitality sector, women make up 53% of the workforce and account for about 57% of the jobs lost.footnote3 Despite making up 57.5% of the government workforce, women have accounted for over 90% of all government jobs lost.footnote3

While some of this may be due to which positions are being let go, it is also important to understand that many women are being forced to decide between their families and their jobs. While women are 10% more productive than men in the workplace, they are also assigned more non-promotable work (work that needs to be done but does not directly relate to their role, like managing meetings).footnote4

As you think through the impact the pandemic has had on your company and your employees, there are things you can do to help alleviate the burden on working women that can increase productivity. Companies, such as Patagonia, see close to 100% of women return to the workforce after starting a family in contrast to the national average of 65%.footnote5 Their programs include maternity leave, paternity leave, and childcare support. The programs result in an ROI of over 115%.footnote5 The following may be a start to building out your support network for your employees.

  • Expand your maternity, paternity, and short-term disability benefits to support your workforce as they need time to support their families and return to work. This can include more time off or including the benefits outlined below.
  • Offer Dependent Care benefits. This will offer some financial cushioning that make it easier for families to continue to seek childcare, even during the pandemic.
  • Customize a Wellness Reimbursement Account to your needs. WRAs are for more than just gym memberships. This benefit is highly flexible and can be used to supplement Dependent Care benefits or other resources employees may need in these COVID times.

To learn more about how your benefits strategy can help support your employees, contact us.