DENVER (MIRS News) – Nearly 2.2 million women have exited the workforce since 2020, and the pandemic-era worker shortage may continue to worsen as more debate leaving in the next two years.
During a National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) panel, which discussed the pandemic toll on working women, Simone D. Ross, president and CEO of the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce, referenced a report that found “women experience disproportionate displacement in the workforce at all levels.”
The large number of women that have left the field during the pandemic is due in part to the historical role of women performing the majority of unpaid child and home care, said Gayle Goldin, senior advisor of the Women’s Bureau at the U.S. Department of Labor.
This resulted in more women having to juggle remote work with raising children during the pandemic, said Taryn Williams, assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy within the U.S. Department of Labor.
Goldin said the additional roles many women play led them to leave more frequently, adding that many of the jobs women are concentrated in pay less and have fewer benefits.
Pay inequities and limited opportunities to move up are contributing to more women debating a shift from the workforce even now, Ross said. The report referenced earlier found that 50% of women of color are considering leaving their corporate job within the next two years.
“This matters more than ever, because we’re still feeling the effects of the last few years,” Goldin said.
Even female legislators weren’t exempt from feeling workforce stress, said Kentucky Rep. Samara Heavrin, who stands as the youngest woman to serve on Kentucky’s General Assembly.
She recounted stories of being mistaken for an intern during her first session, and was jokingly asked to get gray highlights to appear older.
“They’re going to give them to me naturally,” she joked. But Heavrin added seriously that she had to work overtime to gain respect, dodging remarks like, “I have ties older than you.”
“We can keep making comments or we can move forward on policy,” she said.
Heavrin’s focus has been increasing funding for childcare and creating state matching programs for those who fall under the median income of $56,000.
And Ross said other solutions to retain women in the workforce include increasing mentorship programs and pay equity.