Bianna Golodryga, CNN: We know that the unemployment rate skyrocketed after the first months of the pandemic and that the unemployment rate for women has been historically high. Can you explain why we have seen such a disparity in terms of women being much harder hit than men in general?
Nicole Mason, Institute for Research on Women’s Policy: So the reason women have been most affected by job loss during the pandemic is that they are more likely to be employed in industries that have been hit hardest. The service sector, leisure and hospitality, education and health were therefore the hardest hit during the pandemic.
And women… disproportionately… constitute a larger segment of these workers. And what we know about these jobs and what makes it harder for women to do is that these jobs are more likely to be lower paying jobs, jobs with less job security and less flexibility.
So when we think about rebuilding an economy or getting women back into the workforce, they will have a harder time, because many of these jobs will not return.
Golodryga: And if you want to take it a step further and not just focus on women, but women of color, blacks and Hispanics have been hit the hardest. Can you tell us why that is, how systemic this is, as a society as a whole, even before the pandemic? And some of the solutions we can work on in the future?
Mason: Women of color are therefore over-represented in the service sectors. Blacks and Latinos represent 26% to 28% of these workers. These women are really struggling to re-enter and re-enter the workforce. Many of these women were struggling before the pandemic and this economic downturn.
And so it’s really exacerbated, you know, their economic vulnerability. And the other thing that I think is important for your listeners to know is that a lot of these women – especially black women and Latin women – are more likely than other women to be the main earner. of their family. They are therefore the main breadwinner. It is therefore even more difficult for these families to gain a foothold in their economic situation.
Golodryga: And in the longer term, in terms of getting out of financial difficulties, how much more difficult is it going to be for these women and their families if they are the primary breadwinners?
Mason: We are not going to see an individual job replacement. So those jobs that we lost, or roughly 60 million jobs that we lost, are not coming back. So (this) recovery is going to be slow.
Golodryga: And that’s really a direct line of consequences given the numbers we’ve seen of coronavirus deaths and infections among minority communities and minority women in particular.
Mason: And that’s true. So the pandemic, this health crisis merges with this economic crisis and these broken systems. Our child care infrastructure has therefore been down for a long time. A lot of these workers asked for, you know, health care, health insurance, better wages, better wages. And it did not come. And so now we are in this moment where we have this pandemic ravaging communities, this health crisis, then this economic crisis and we were not prepared.
When they passed the first CARES law, which you know gave paid sick leave and expanded unemployment insurance, I think those were steps in the right direction. But for now, we have to be honest, with the infighting in Congress, a lot of these women are being left by a wayside.
Golodryga: Well, it’s true. And I’m glad you brought that up, because Congress seems to have really failed not only the American public in the sense of not pursuing further stimulus, but women in particular, because they are involved in this stimulus plan, in addition to unemployment. improved insurance was also a relief for childcare.
Mason: Women can spend up to 30% of their income on child care. And so when you think of women earning lower wages and you think of needs. Schools are closed. So this is money they will have to pay to be able to cover the care, especially if you have young children who go to school.
It’s really… baffling to me that, you know, the people in power who can really do something about it and throw women and families a lifeline, don’t really see fit to do it. You know, it’s a national crisis.
Golodryga: You are a single black mother. You have very intelligent, boisterous and creative children. We talked about it offline. What was this process like for you?
Mason: You know I’m lucky enough to be able to work remotely, but I can tell you this. It doesn’t work for me either. When it happened in the spring… I emailed one of my child’s teachers. I said, you know what? It just won’t happen. I can’t put it together and not because I’m not able or smart enough to figure it out. It is that it is impossible.
You can’t work 40 hours a week and then be told that now you need to make sure your kids are online and learning. And I think, you know, just about you, the first day of school was last week, and I was getting my kids ready.
And I sometimes think of myself at 5 or myself at 6. My children have different lives than I could have imagined as a child. I grew up in Los Angeles and (we) were a poor working class. And I thought of the children who don’t have the resources. Who don’t have broadband access, who don’t have a safe… quiet place to learn. And I thought it would’ve been me, you know. And so I think there isn’t enough consideration or even a national conversation about the impact of educational disparities, economic disparities and what that means right now and how these things … have been exacerbated in a few short time. month. Well, what this tells me is that these systems did not work initially and that many people were suffering in silence, including the working women.
And what I’m optimistic about is that we realize that these systems have been broken and they don’t work for working women like me and you who can work from home. And they sure don’t work for women who, you know, have a little more insecure jobs.
Golodryga: For mothers in particular, this again put them in a “is this my career or is my job as a mom to come first?” And it will necessarily be the latter. And I wonder, in terms of re-entering the workforce after the pandemic, it looks like it’s going to be a lot harder for women to get back to where they were, let alone move forward.
Mason: Let me tell you something. At the start of the year, we celebrated the fact that women made up over 50% of the workforce. We were super excited. But underneath I kind of knew that wasn’t what it was, that a lot of women were struggling even though we were 50% of the workforce. And I also knew that employers, even though women represent 50% of the workforce… they haven’t done much to welcome women into the workforce.
You know, we always work from nine to five and we expect to find solutions with our children. There is no accommodation. So when I think about re-integrating women into the workforce, I think the federal government or the states have a role to play in providing child care services to families and then also to employers… We need to rethink our model of the workplace.
If we don’t do that, then … women will not be able, again, as you said, to be able to reenter the workforce and keep a job or advance in their career. And we as a country cannot afford that.
The economy cannot afford it. Because you know what? Women represent half of the economy.
To be honest, do you know what I really think it’s gonna take? I think it will take more empowerment and influence of women and women in leadership positions, because we know that when women are in the top places, things happen. You know, policies reflect the life experiences of women and families. You know, that’s just the gist.
Golodryga: I wonder what your hopes are for the future. You have a son and a daughter and you know, you want them both to achieve whatever they eventually can in life. And what does that look like to her in particular?
Mason: Well, you know, if we keep going at the same pace, my daughter is not going to achieve pay equity for over a century. Right now we’re sort of stuck at 23%. 100% representation in elected positions.
What I hope for my daughter is that this moment arouses urgency for all of us. And we say we have to build systems, institutions and opportunities for our next generation, but also for women now. And that we see that we can we can no longer continue. It is unbearable.
And what excites me is that I feel like this is where we are at. I feel like we’re in the moment where we’re saying, you know what, systems are broken and it’s not our fault but we’re going to build them back better, stronger and with an eye for issues like fairness, leveling out disparities like that. We are on this trajectory.