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COVID-19 pandemic has forced women out of the workforce creating a 'she-cession'

·3 min read

As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts the workforce, leaving millions with reduced hours or without a job, women are disproportionately carrying the burden.

Jamie Ladge, a professor at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University, is calling this economic downturn a ‘she-cession’ for two reasons: increased child-care responsibilities “falling predominantly on women” and a high number of job losses in female-dominated industries.

“Women are disproportionately affected by the pandemic for multiple reasons. The pandemic has created an unprecedented disruption on our child care system,” Ladge recently told Yahoo Finance Live. “Women [are also] in service industries, health care and education — sectors which are getting hit the hardest.”

A total of 2.18 million women aged 20 years and older have left the labor force from February through November, compared with 1.78 million men. The leisure and hospitality industry, which employs a disproportionate number of women, has lost more than 3.4 million jobs since February. Employment in the education sector continues to trend lower. In November alone, 21,000 education jobs were lost.

How to resolve the child care crisis in the country is the multibillion dollar question. Child care is not a family issue, rather it’s a business issue, and a key element of reopening the economy.

“We need to think about child care as infrastructure — in the way we think about our roads and our bridges for commuters as infrastructure, child care is infrastructure,” said Ladge. “We have a third of the U.S. workforce — 50 million workers — with children under the age of 14 living at home. This is becoming a real problem for working parents. It was a problem beforehand, but even harder now because there are so few child care options.”

‘Walk the talk’

Before the pandemic, inadequate child care was costing working parents $37 billion a year in lost income and employers $13 billion a year in lost productivity, according data from Care.com.

“I hear a lot of my colleagues and friends will say, ‘oh, women are opting out.’ They're not opting out, they're being pushed out because we have so few options for child care,” said Ladge.

Child-care responsibilities “falling predominantly on women.” Credit: Getty

With a lack of federal aid, employers are trying to provide their own solutions such as offering greater flexibility and paid leave.

While that’s a step in the right direction, Ladge says offering it isn’t enough. Rather, employers need to be supportive.

“You can offer a whole bunch of supportive policies but that doesn't mean employees are going to take it because there may be fear that if they take it, it's going to have repercussions for their job,” said Ladge. “If you're going to offer that, you have to walk the talk and say we support you taking advantage of these work life policies.”

Seana Smith anchors Yahoo Finance Live’s 3-5 pm ET program. Follow her on Twitter @SeanaNSmith