Headlines and cable news chyrons about the covid-19 pandemic of late have been a medley of rising death tolls, promising analysis about the upcoming vaccines, and concern over their potentially disastrous rollout. But lost amid the breaking news, the tragic stories of eviction, the squabbling in D.C. over stimulus money, and the occasional hopeful anecdote is an ongoing story that might not be deemed sexy enough for a CNN segment: Women are getting absolutely pummeled by the pandemic across racial and class lines.
Rep. Katie Porter is over it.
On Wednesday, Porter released a report titled “The Burden of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Women in the Workforce,” which details the ways covid-19's economic fallout is destroying the lives of America’s working women, particularly women of color.
“Without action, the pandemic will likely erase decades of progress for working women, who are now being forced to shoulder the burden of childcare and remote learning,” writes Porter in the report’s foreword. “As a single mom of three young children, I know these challenges all too well.”
Working women have always had to make difficult choices to balance their careers and their families, but the pandemic has made these decisions nearly impossible. Women, especially women of color, are overrepresented in the industries that have been hit hardest by COVID-19, such as food service, retail, and health care. In corporate America, as many as two million women are considering leaving the workforce, due to childcare responsibilities. A longstanding lack of globally competitive family policy compounds some employers’ reluctance to make necessary adjustments for working parents now.
In my time in Congress, I have been a staunch advocate for working parents because strong family policy is also strong economic policy. I firmly believe this crisis warrants immediate and aggressive action. Congress and the Administration must act now to support the safe reopening of childcare centers and schools, replace lost wages, support families, and make care more affordable and accessible. Employers must adjust their business models to accommodate the additional pressures women, and especially mothers, are experiencing in the workplace.
Without swift, comprehensive change, Porter worries that these inequities will impact women and their families for generations to come.
The report goes on to list statistics that more than validate her concerns, which she also highlighted in a Twitter thread. Twenty-two percent of women have left the workforce since the covid-19 pandemic, and those losses are largely represented in industries that are majority women and disproportionately women of color such as retail, the performing arts, and hotel work.
“Economists and labor experts are concerned that many of these jobs will not return, as restaurants and entertainment venues close their doors permanently and retailers reconsider brick and mortar locations,” the report reads.
The one exception is healthcare, which saw big losses early in the pandemic due to a reduction in elective procedures, but their numbers have since recuperated.
Additionally, Porter’s report notes that women are returning to the workforce at a slower pace than men. Of the women who are returning to work, the majority are white.
The grim statistics and graphs continue for several pages before Porter drafts out a series of solutions, including paid leave, free pre-K, and an expansion of emergency relief to working families.
Many of the aforementioned policies are already outlined in legislation Porter and others have pushed since the pandemic began, while others have been languishing on Capitol Hill for well over a year now. Perhaps if a majority of the nation’s male-dominated legislative body felt they had a stake—moral or otherwise—in these issues impacting over half of the U.S. population, Porter wouldn’t have to resort to a 10-part Twitter thread and a comprehensive PDF to spur a modicum of action.
Alas, this is America: When faced with abject fuckery, those in power opt to respond with the bare minimum.