Women Ditching Work: Detrimental Effects of the Coronavirus

Updated: Aug 7

After a 12-week global shutdown, it was clear that we weren’t moving the needle forward in any way shape, or form. Then on May 25th, George Floyd suffered an unjust and unacceptable death; provoking the nation to ask how much progress in relations to equality (gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, etc) we had really made. The Civil Rights Movement had been fought and passed to create a nation for equal opportunity. We are now coming to realize, we are far far from that goal.



How do we perceive ourselves as a nation; does it align with what reality is telling us? Through this rocky time, we are witnessing people coming together, opening up a new dialogue, and empathizing with one another. And change, albeit small, gradual and incremental, is indeed taking place.


It’s a clarifying example that progress must be a verb. A continuous examination and push for equal opportunities, however long that may take.


DispatchMom was created to help us realize you can have both a successful career and take care of your family. This isn’t 1955 and we’d be happy to show Don Draper a few things about advertising. While my career has granted me a network of leaders to work amongst, the effects of Covid-19 on working women have been disheartening to see. How many years have or will women be set back through this pandemic? Will our 40-year progress for women to get closer to (we are still not there) gender equality become a 30-year progress? 20? How do we reverse this alarming trend?


An Experiment:


One search engine. One keyword swapped for another. You would typically expect hundreds of different results by switching your search intent.


However, these two inquiries gave me the exact same results. Google- all that data and not a single article for how men are being affected?



“I had to choose to be a mother”


“Women are taking a harder hit than men”


“The coming setback for women”


Across each sector; leisure and hospitality, education and health services, retail, and state government jobs, women have made up more than fifty percent of job losses.


What does this tell us? While lay-offs due to Covid-19 have had an effect on employers from the bottom to the top of the ladder, low-paid employers are often the first to go. It’s re-confirming that women are disproportionately those with the lowest-paid jobs, still making 81 cents to the male dollar.


What makes this situation unique compared to any other recession is that the entire day-care infrastructure has been put on hold. While employers are forced to decide who has to be let go, biases, conscious or not, result in the caregiving and homeschooling tasks being given to the “more nurturing parent.” Moreover, working moms who are maintaining their jobs, shoulder the majority of domestic and childcare responsibilities, pressuring them to seriously consider leaving the workplace and many of them have.



The Rise of the Supermom


You know the one. Her mentality is that when push comes to shove, roll up your sleeves, and throw the stragglers on your back. They step-up when others throw in the towel and say it’s too much to bear. While these moms continue to add to their plate, eventually the wax burns out. On top of this, ‘Good Mom’ pressure is seen through online influencer platforms giving them another reason to believe they are not doing enough.


Take a look at Aimee’s story. It’s exactly how we’d write a fairy tale. Starts her career as one of two women at a videogame company in San Francisco. Works 70+ hours a week to build a team of thirteen that include women, minorities, and anybody who could make a difference. Now at 46 years old, the team she led building open-source websites have all been laid-off. This was the decision that had to be made after asking her husband (working part-time) to take care of their son Ryan. “I can’t do it,” she remembers him saying: “I can’t watch him for this long.”


“I’m an economist, so I usually try not to say things without data,” said Martha Gimbel, a manager of economic research at Schmidt Futures. “But I feel very comfortable going out on a limb and saying that this burden is going to fall on women. We just know it’s going to be women.”


The setback comes at a striking moment. In February, right before the outbreak began to spread in the United States, working women passed a rare milestone — making up more than half of the nation’s civilian nonfarm labor force. Still, they do a disproportionate share of the work at home. Among married couples who work full time, women provide close to 70 percent of child care during standard working hours, according to recent economic research. That burden has been supersized as schools and other activities shut down and help from cleaning services and babysitters has been curtailed.”


How the Power has Shifted


The idea of accommodating employee’s schedules has been key to building a culture that promotes a balanced life as well as attracting top talent. Leaving early on a Friday to pick-up your child without asking your employer shouldn’t be a second thought. Now with fewer jobs available, parents are hesitant about coming out as the caregiver. While hiring will slowly start to regain momentum, deciphering the candidate whose career takes higher precedence, wins.


Weighing the two shouldn’t look like a teeter tot. Single parent or a partnership, parenthood is one part of your identity. DispatchMom aims to make getting it all done possible. With time for an afternoon bubble bath!


In terms of headlines…

“Superhero dad defends the home ground: taking care of the kids while mom doubles down on work; rising to the occasion in an unbeknownst time.”

When will that story be written?


A Note from the Founder:


I started DispatchMom because I felt women and mothers who do not want to lose their professional identity to motherhood need help. We do it all, even with wonderful significant others. I’ve encountered two kinds of dad parents. Those that are willing to step up to the plate and help the professional and high-achieving mother. Yet, despite their attempts and intentions, they often fall short. This leaves us to step in and take care of the task which is often super-simple (making lunch for the kiddo, reminding him to log into his online camp, etc) but it is still a time-sink and a disruption. On the other hand, we have dads who aren’t willing to try; work schedules, they’re tired, we’ve heard it all before. In both cases, our moms stand a lose-lose situation. With COVID-19 this problem is being amplified. My aim isn’t to single out one gender over another. I know a handful of dads who put this stereotype to rest. Their setting a tremendous example and should be applauded.


It’s that study after study reveals moms dropping out of the workplace at an alarming rate in order to care for their children. This affects their earning potential, future opportunities, and overall influence in society. Why is it that dads, by default, get to have the first right of refusal about domestic responsibilities? Why is it that a mom has to worry about homework, online school, lunch, exercise, and dinner? For those of you saying “yes, but mothers are nurturing,” I call BS. Sure, we are nurturing but why should this trait replace our need for intellectual and professional growth?


Just as much as employers assume men to be our leaders, drivers, movers, and shakers in the workforce, when do you categorize them as fathers? How many times has an employer said to a man: "We think you would be great for this role, but we want to make sure you can take care of your family just as well as you perform at work.” The number of women I have worked alongside who have felt this pressure? Uncapped.


It’s women like Heidi Ganahl who have blown past stereotypes to build platforms empowering women. The kind of woman who has reached the top and then makes room on the podium to pull their sisters up.


DispatchMom will continue to share these messages and encourage conversations with one another, employers, and spouses. Progress isn't linear, but we will count on the advocates of change and those setting an example to keep the pressure on, especially on employers and people with positions of influence in the society.


References:


Coronavirus job losses are impacting everyone, but women are taking a harder hit than men


‘I had to choose being a mother’: With no child care or summer camps, women are being edged out of the workforce


Pandemic Could Scar a Generation of Working Mothers



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