Women Bearing Brunt of Pandemic
Heather Lowe and Charletra Sharp
COVID-19 has exposed so many of our nation’s disparities – access to health care, internet connectivity, and the ability to work from home (or not), just to name a few. Through it all, women are bearing the brunt of COVID in ways that may take years to correct.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ December jobs report created shock waves when it showed that the U.S. lost 140,000 jobs in December, and all of them were held by women. More specifically, women accounted for 156,000 job losses in total, while men gained 16,000 during that same period. Black and Latina women were especially hard hit, as they often hold jobs lacking paid sick leave or remote officing opportunities. So, when faced with caregiving responsibilities due to school closures or family illness, many women have been, and will continue to be, forced to exit the workforce.
In a job market where women were only making 81 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts, the pandemic has pushed women even further behind. Even before the pandemic, 41% of all children born to single mothers are raised in poverty. These mothers and their children are at the highest risk for homelessness, even with the mother working a full-time job.
Research indicates that many working women, especially minorities who are single-female headed households, choose entrepreneurship as a pathway for self-sufficiency and to supplement their monthly income. Although more women and minorities are becoming business owners, their revenue is not growing at the same rate as their white male counterparts.
With support from JPMorgan Chase, in partnership with Next Street, CTL commissioned a report and action roadmap to strengthen the small ecosystem for underserved low and moderate-income (LMI) microbusiness owners in Tarrant County. Interviews with local stakeholders and the review of evidence-based models identified six essential elements for an equitable small business ecosystem that effectively supports LMI women business owners and others who have disproportionate access to resources. The key elements are: ecosystem infrastructure, capital, policy, business supports, market access, and wraparound resources. The full report may be accessed at www.transforminglives.org/transformtc.
So, what can you do to support women and families during the pandemic? If you are a business owner, you can evaluate your policies and employee benefits. Are they flexible enough for working families? Is your HR team knowledgeable about benefits like Flexible Spending Accounts that can be used to help pay for childcare? If you are at the helm of a large company, have you considered offering on-site childcare as a benefit? Have you invested enough in technology systems that allow your employees to work from home in the event of a family illness or temporary school closure?
Even if you are not the head of a company, there are ways to support women in your local community. Rather than grabbing a new tumbler or t-shirt during your next trip to a big box retailer, look for a local woman-owned business who offers a comparable product and purchase directly from them. You can also support these hard-working moms by simply boosting their business to your own networks. If you picked up a delicious birthday cake from a local home-baker, don’t keep it a secret! Many small businesses rely on word of mouth to help their business grow.
We know that women are resilient, creative, and tenacious and when faced with difficulties balancing family and work. Small businesses can offer a flexible solution to help single mothers achieve stability for themselves and their families. That’s why we offer a wide variety of Economic Mobility programming in addition to Housing and Early Childhood Education. If you know of anyone that may benefit from financial education and coaching, credit improvement, and microenterprise support services, email EMS@transforminglives.org.
More information can also be found on the CTL Website at https://www.transforminglives.org/economic-mobility.