In April the unemployment rate rapidly climbed to 15.5% for women. With women of colour having an even higher unemployment rate. This is, of course, yet another consequence of COVID-19.
Unlike the 2008 recession, women are the majority of the unemployed. There are multiple reasons for this: having to quit their job to take care of their children and their education; being laid off for their lack of productivity due to the previous reason; companies having to sacrifice workers to save themselves and they just happen to be a woman.
This all sounds horribly sexist, right? Unfortunately, the evidence backs it up. A Morning Consult and New York Times poll found that in herterosexual households with school age children, 45% of men thought that they spent more time homeschooling compared to women, whereas only 3% of women said that men did more. Not only that, but studies have also shown that men consistently underestimate the amount of time that women spend on housework and childcare and even overestimate their own contributions!
Thanks to the gender pay gap, women often earn less than men, and if a couple is struggling with keeping on top of childcare, housework and homeschooling, it’s likely that the woman will have to sacrifice her career for the sake of her home life. What if she was saving up to leave her other half? What if he is abusive or she’s unhappy? All of a sudden, she’s giving up a lot more than her home life.
The pandemic has stolen freedom from all of our lives, but like a lot of things, women seem to be getting hit harder. The fear is that post-pandemic life will see women living a more constrained and claustrophobic life – a loss of what feminists have spent years fighting for: freedom.
Whether that be financial freedom; freedom from their home; from an abusive or unhappy relationship and to have a career. More importantly, freedom to be who they are.
What exactly can you do to help this change? Start with a conversation. Talk to your boss and ask about their policies in place for women. You can donate to organisations as well. Too often, women’s movements and organisations lack funding which hinders their ability to make positive changes in women’s lives. Check out Smart Works and Young Women’s Trust. Don’t be afraid to take it even further, start a fundraiser at work or talk to HR about childcare help options for the working parents.