Since the pandemic began hitting the labor force in February 2020, women have lost some 5.4 million jobs, comprising about 55% of the 9.8 million jobs lost. But women have also abandoned their jobs at four times the rate as men, with 2.7 million women choosing not to look for new work.
Why? Women face additional obstacles such as the shutting of schools and day cares, pay disparities, and a lack of laws and regulations to support them, particularly during the pandemic. In the case of Hispanic and Latina women, for example, they may be faced with greater caregiving demands than men and are forced to stay home because they can't find child care or their older children need help with remote learning, according to a report by McKinsey and Co.
No group has vacated their jobs more than Hispanic/Latina women. According to research conducted by NPR, Hispanic/Latina women are leaving at almost three times the rate of white women. This is, in part, due to the aforementioned caregiving demands at home, and Latina workers' overrepresentation in jobs in industries hit hard by the pandemic, such as retail, restaurants and hotels, where work-from-home arrangements aren't possible.
Other minority working moms are also experiencing job loss. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Black working moms have higher rates of unemployment than working white moms, with 154,000 Black women leaving the workforce in December.
Experts worry that it could be tougher for women of color to re-enter the job market, earn pay comparable to their white counterparts, and attain future management positions.
Steps to recovery
L'areal Lipkins, CEO of A Woman With Vision, says that during these difficult times, women need to assess where they want to go with their careers and then strategize about how to increase their marketability to employers. She suggests women should:
- Become irreplaceable. "Look at a level above where you are currently in your job. What skills does that person have? Those are the ones you need to work on," she says. "That makes you more valuable."
- Be yourself. Some women may try to compare themselves to others — often men — and think they can't be successful because they don't possess the same skills as someone else." Instead, make a list of the skills you have that are of value to a wide variety of jobs, such as an ability to communicate well or be collaborative with diverse work groups.
- Be flexible. While layoffs and other issues have forced women from the workforce, this time should lend some clarity to career plans, and that includes an understanding that career detours aren't dead ends. "The next job you take may not be the job you want, but it's about getting there (to a dream job) eventually," she says.
- Keep growing. If you wind up in a job that isn't ideal — or are unemployed — take steps to grow your skills. Use LinkedIn Learning, podcasts, free certifications, and other avenues to show future employers that you have continued to look for ways to become more valuable.
- Start your own business. Lipkin says that she's seeing more women of color seize the opportunity to leave the workforce to start their own businesses. "These are women who may have been thinking about this before, but the pandemic just pushed them into making the transition now," she says. The Small Business Administration offers tips for those starting a new business, such as how to come up with a business plan.
Focus on your transferable skills
A woman who wants to become an entrepreneur or grow her current career needs to recognize the transferable skills that she "may not think are valuable," Lipkins says.
Transferable skills — or skills that you possess that are valuable across roles — are critical to examine when you are looking for work. Soft skills, like strong communication, collaboration, and leadership abilities, are difficult to teach so employers seek candidates that come with those traits. These are skills that women often possess but minimize despite being highly sought after since they add value to a multitude of jobs and industries, Lipkins says.