New data suggest that the economic downturn associated with COVID-19 has disproportionately affected women. A pair of articles in the Economist and Bloomberg News discuss how this slowdown is different from others in its gendered impact, particularly along the dimensions of 1) job loss and 2) distribution of household and childrearing responsibilities. Together, they paint a grim portrait of how progress toward gender equality in the workplace is at risk.

In an article entitled, This Time is Different, the Economist notes that “Women have borne the brunt of the economic disruption caused by the pandemic.” As proof, the magazine cites April 2020 data indicating that despite making up half the U.S. workforce, women lost 55% of jobs. The magazine also points out that is a change from past downturns, such as the Great Recession, where manufacturing and construction were among the hardest hit industries. Those industries tend to have higher concentrations of men. Conversely, women tend to have higher representations in the services industries, particularly where face to face interaction is a job requirement. This is also true, the Economist notes, for woman-owned small businesses, which are more likely to be customer facing than those that are male-owned. With many hotels, shops, restaurants and other customer-facing businesses shuttered on account of COVID-19, women have suffered greater job losses.

Similarly, In a recent analysis in Bloomberg News, entitled, Women Are Bearing the Brunt of the Covid-19 Economic Pain, Elaine He and Nicole Torres assessed several dimensions of the downturn, including unemployment figures and household and childcare responsibilities. They found that, for example, unemployment figures have risen faster for women than men. Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, He and Torres note that in 2020, “The unemployment rate for [men aged 16 years and older] was 13.3% in April (compared to 3.6% in April 2019); that number was 15.7% for women (compared to 3.1% in April 2019).”

Both articles highlight the uneven distribution of household labor and childcare as another factor in COVID-19’s gendered impact on the U.S. workforce. He and Torres note that “Even though men are spending more time at home than before, women are still reporting doing more of the housework.” (Trusaic also highlighted the importance of shared household and childrearing tasks here.) The Economist puts this in even starker terms: “If job and productivity losses persist, they could reverse progress towards gender equality in the workplace.”

Any solution to the gendered impact of COVID-19 must be multi-faceted and comprehensive. Nonetheless, employers have a critical tool available to them to begin the process of counteracting this disproportionate effect. When it comes to the workplace, experts from across the human capital, legal, and compensation industries recommend that businesses conduct a pay equity audit. A pay equity audit is an analytical tool that seeks to explain internal differences in pay across the workforce in terms of justifiable business factors, as well as identify the areas where pay differences may not be defensible. It can also provide critical analytics to kickstart rehiring in compliance with state and federal equal pay laws.

Not sure how to get started? Let Trusaic provide your organization with a free Pay Gap Analysis, which can be conducted confidentially and under the attorney-client privilege.
Here is what you will get:

  • 1-hour consultation to our pay equity team comprised of regulatory compliance experts and data scientists
  • Answers to your pay equity questions
  • An pay gap analysis of your workforce