The existing gender gap in wages has increased amid the pandemic, with women not only earning less than their male counterparts but disproportionately tasked with caring for children and sick family members. Since the start of the pandemic, while men have lost a total of 4.4 million jobs, women have lost 5.4 million. This number is only predicted to increase as COVID-19 cases rise nationwide, resulting in more economic loss as businesses and childcare facilities must stay closed amid efforts to stop the spread. Additionally, data compiled by Brookings found that more women than men were employed in low-paying jobs. Further reports indicate that while a majority of Black and brown women lost jobs in December, white women made significant gains.
According to the reports, this is due in part to people of color working in sectors that often do not provide sick leave or have the ability to work from home, including restaurants and retail stores. These businesses have also been hit the hardest by the pandemic. As a result, when schools and daycare centers closed, many women of color were forced to choose between working and parenting.
Lack of childcare has impacted many women’s ability to both sustain jobs and reenter the workforce. “Those sectors are less likely to have flexibility, so when employers are inflexible or women can’t come to work because of caregiving responsibilities — they have to exit the workforce,” C. Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, told CNN. In December Black women had an employment rate of 8.4%, 3% higher than that of white women. For Latinas, the unemployment rate was even higher at 9.1%. Both Black women and Latinas each had a higher unemployment rate than the national average of 6.7%.
“Four times as many women as men dropped out of the labor force in September, roughly 865,000 women compared with 216,000 men,” the Center for American Progress reported in October 2020. According to the study, the estimated risk of working mothers dropping out of the workforce to pursue responsibilities at home was equivalent to “$64.5 billion per year in lost wages and economic activity.”
This data reflects the cold truth that not only are people of color more likely to suffer from COVID-19 but they are also being financially impacted the most by the pandemic. As the unemployment rate for women of color increases, so does the gender and racial labor gap. At the current rate, generations to come will suffer economically from the consequences of unemployment and the inability of the current administration to handle COVID-19. Until a systematic change is made at all levels, people of color will continue to face issues at disproportionate rates than their white counterparts, and women of color will continue to bear the worst of it.