While COVID hit many American workers hard, women in the workforce are faring much worse than their male counterparts.
According to research from the National Women’s Law Center, more than 5.4 million women’s jobs were eliminated from the U.S. workforce between February 2020 and January 2021, while 2.1 million women vanished from the paid labor force completely.
For women who remained in the workforce, a separate survey from WerkLabs (the data and insights division of The Mom Project) recently surveyed 2,000 professionals on topics ranging from flexibility and remote work to salary, workload and support. Researchers found that 44% of working moms don’t feel like they are being paid what they are worth to their organization, and they also rated opportunities to advance in their job 51% more negatively than dads.
Dr. Pam Cohen, president of WerkLabs and the study’s lead author, explains that, because current opportunities are slim, she adds, many women feel like they have been forced to compromise for roles despite low pay and being overqualified, ultimately hindering their career advancement.
“One year into the pandemic is still a very difficult and anxiety-prone time to be a woman, especially a mother,” says Cohen. “The situation remains dire for many, and we are seeing it manifest not only with women settling for any available job in order to provide for their families but also with rightful concerns around their future career development.”
It’s no surprise then that the majority of women and moms surveyed feel overwhelmed and anxious. Many moms feel underappreciated at work, for example, rating the competitiveness of their salary for their role as 25% worse than dads surveyed, while they view the degree to which they are paid what they are worth to their organization 33% more negatively than dads.
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Compared to working fathers, mothers also rate their managers’ concerns for their wellbeing 10% less favorably, their social connectedness at work 21% more negatively and their workload 31% less manageable.
“I feel alone and unable to connect with co-workers on the extra stressors I’m dealing with at this time surrounding childcare availability and just fears in general,” reports one surveyed mom.
On a positive note, many women and moms surveyed remain cautiously optimistic about the future. They believe the past year has ignited meaningful workplace conversations around parenting, race, flexibility and mental health that can lead to improvements. For instance, many moms remain bullish on flexible, hybrid work, citing one to two days in the office as their most desirable work schedule.
Finally, while the $1.9 trillion COVID bill enacted last month offers short-term financial relief in the form of stimulus checks, $130 billion set aside to help K-12 schools reopen and additional funds for childcare providers, it’s just a start, Cohen says.
“The COVID relief bill is certainly help that we all need and appreciate, but unfortunately it is a temporary Band-Aid on the situation as a whole,” Cohen says. “You can’t put a short-term price on the loss of jobs and career advancement facing millions of women. We’ve got to encourage employers to provide new roles, flexibility, reskilling and opportunities for advancement for women.”