While everyone has been affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to a degree, the extent is exponentially worse for women of color.
The United States economy lost 140,000 jobs in December 2020. Shockingly, women lost 156,000 jobs while men gained 16,000. In January, another 275,000 women vanished from the workforce. While the overall unemployment rate fell to 6.3% last month, it rose to 8.5% for Black women aged 20 and older, while Hispanic women were at 8.8% and white women the lowest at 5.1%.
Women of color have been hit the hardest not only due to the job types and industries crippled by the pandemic—including education, hospitality, childcare and retail—but also due to increased childcare demands at home.
One third of Black moms and one fourth of Latinx moms report being unable to work from home during the pandemic according to a new study conducted by WerkLabs, the data and insights division of The Mom Project. Comparatively, only 1/10 of both white and Asian moms were unable to work from home during the pandemic.
With many Black and Latinx moms not afforded the luxury of remote work during these trying times, that not only puts them at a greater potential risk to COVID-19 exposure, but also leaves their childcare responsibilities in doubt. White and Asian moms are 9% more likely to leave their employer in comparison to Black moms, and are 14% more likely to leave their employer compared to Latinx moms.
“Moms are currently in a delicate balancing act and many are unfortunately going to topple over due to the unrelenting pressures of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic if they don’t receive much-needed resources, help and support,” said Dr. Pam Cohen, President of WerkLabs and the study’s lead author. “Women of color, especially, aren’t able to focus on their careers or their families because the pandemic has stripped them of that choice, or they’re drowning in an attempt to maintain both.”
Two times as many moms of color compared to white moms, who are more often afforded the flexibility to work from home, report feeling as though their workplace is testing employees to see who persists and remains resilient. Not only do they feel tested by employers, but 20% more moms of color in comparison to white moms feel their workplace assumes that “working from home” equates to “more time for work” despite competing childcare and pandemic realities.
With significantly more Black and Latinx moms reporting being single mothers, that equates to more at-home responsibilities that falls on their shoulders; two times more Black moms report doing more than 90% of household work in comparison to white and Asian moms.
“As a mom of color I feel like there’s an expectation that we have to be strong … that we have to be resilient,” according to one respondent. “And, while I agree with that to an extent, it’s exhausting being resilient all the time.”
Unfortunately, the weight of the pandemic isn’t just crushing women of color. More than 80% of the more than 1,500 women surveyed feel overwhelmed attempting to balance work and at-home demands, while 75% report feeling “mom guilt” while working, unable to devote their full attention to their children.
“Childcare consists of a lot of screen time. It feels terrible to be spending time at home, but having to be more connected to work and colleagues online than with the children that are physically in your presence,” reports one mom of color respondent.
As the pandemic is forcing moms to choose between career and children, almost 2.1 million women vanished from the paid labor force completely since February 2020, and by September 2020, three working mothers were unemployed for every one father who had lost his job.
This unimaginable loss of labor diversity “has set working women back by more than three decades—to levels of labor force participation last seen in 1988.”
According to survey respondents who left an employer amid the pandemic, 39% were laid off, 33% chose to leave, 18% took temporary leave, and 12% were furloughed.
With their time spread so thin, women and moms are unable to look for new opportunities or further their career development. Black and Latinx moms rate the impact of COVID-19 on their ability to advance their careers as 15% more negative than white moms, while 72% of all demographics surveyed indicate they don’t have time to engage in off-hours career development opportunities.
There are some resources available to facilitate career advancement despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic. In September, The Mom Project’s not-for-profit arm, MomProject.org, announced its RISE initiative. Over the next three years, RISE plans to elevate 10,000 women of color by providing scholarships to highly sought after technology certificates such as Google and Salesforce that will bolster their earning potential. The model is built from the understanding that while upskilling, moms need to also be able to earn income and provide for their families, often as a primary earner.
Currently there are more than 150 women enrolled in the RISE via one of three certification tracks—Salesforce Administration, Google IT Support, and Google IT Automation with Python—which can be completed in as little as six weeks. In Q2 of 2021, RISE will introduce additional certification tracks such as Project Management, Data Analysis and UX Design to further accelerate the supply of qualified leaders of color to meet demand for diverse talent by committed employers and partners of The Mom Project.