Women Are Dropping Out Of The Workforce At 4-Times The Rate Of Men

by Julie Scagell
Iryna Alekseienko/Getty

The pandemic is forcing women in record numbers to give up their careers

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) released its monthly employment report, and the results, while unsurprising, confirm what many have expected about the ramifications of the pandemic on working women and mothers: Our careers will suffer at a rate from which we may never recover.

The Employment Situation” September 2020, a report published monthly by the BLS, showed a dramatic difference between women and men dropping out of the workforce. “We totally knew this was coming, but this month is a disaster for working women: 865k women dropped out of the labor force, 216K men did,” economist Michael Madowitz wrote on Twitter, sharing the information in a graph that stirs equal parts rage and sadness.

School closures, quarantining, child care, and workplace flexibility are just a few reasons balancing work and home has been difficult (re: impossible) for parents. But traditional roles of women as caregivers (regardless of how much they contribute to the household income) lands the burden of much of this squarely on women. Because of the lack of flexibility and continued wage disparities, women are making the difficult choice to leave the workforce and careers they love to bridge the gap.

“Though working moms now have some of what they’d wished for a year ago — the ability to work from home, flexible hours, no commute, a less stressful morning routine — it has been replaced with facilitating remote learning, full-time child care, financial concerns, and a strain on their mental health unlike ever before,” wrote Dara Levy, VP of Partnership for The Mom Project, an organization that finds meaningful employment for mothers and caregivers. “This is not remote work. This is working from home under impossible circumstances.”

It is not sustainable. And women are suffering the consequences.

Women over the age of 16 lost 143,000 jobs last month, its survey of households showed. The unemployment rate also dropped — falling to 8 percent from 8.6 percent the month prior — because many stopped looking for work altogether.

Plus, the share of women working or looking for jobs, dropped to 55.6 percent from 56.1 percent. That is lowest number for women’s labor force participation since 1987 with the exception of April and May 2020 when the impacts of the pandemic were first realized, The New York Times reported.

And, a survey conducted this spring by the Boston Consulting Group found that, on average, women were spending 15 hours more a week on domestic labor than men were (65 hours versus 50 hours), compared with a pre-pandemic balance of 35 hours and 25 hours. As weeks have turned to months and little has been done at the federal level to address the pandemic in a systemic manner, women, according to the BLS information, are now making the difficult decision to leave the workforce altogether.

“The current economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately hurting women’s employment, with ramifications that could be long lasting,” the organization wrote in a separate report this month. “The authors estimate that 15 million single mothers in the United States will be the most severely affected, with little potential for receiving other sources of childcare and a smaller likelihood of continuing to work during the crisis.”

The impacts to their future careers, their families, mental health, and the progress women have made to neutralize the gender gap that exists as a society is undeniable.

Information about COVID-19 is rapidly changing, and Scary Mommy is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. With news being updated so frequently, some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For this reason, we are encouraging readers to use online resources from local public health departments, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization to remain as informed as possible.