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The Pandemic Highlighted Workforce Inequality For Women

 May 20, 2021 at 1:02 PM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Women lost 1 million more jobs than men. Last year. In fact, women were so disproportionately affected by job loss. During the pandemic, it was called the Xi session. As catchy as the term may be. It highlights all the ways. Inequality in the workforce impacts women. Shayna gross is vice-president of client services at San Diego workforce partnership. She wrote a recent opinion article in the San Diego union Tribune about what it will take for employers to create equity in the workplace and bring women back. She joins us now. Shana, welcome. Thanks for having me. So first let's dig into the inequalities women face in the workforce and how the pandemic made those worse. Speaker 2: 00:42 Well, I think we can all think of, um, friends or family members when, you know, schools shut down, we kind of looked at each other and said, what are we going to do now? And it fell often, uh, to women to figure out with their employers what they were going to do. You know, I'm going to stay home and watch my child, or I need these flexible hours. Um, and, uh, in addition, you know, I think it's important to recognize that not all women in the workplace are moms, you know, many are, um, but women in general tend to be in, um, lower wage, frontline jobs that were most impacted by the recession. Things like hospitality and retail. Um, and so they were losing their jobs or working jobs on the front lines, more exposed to, um, you know, COVID and the things that we were all trying to stay home to avoid. Speaker 1: 01:32 And the U S Bureau labor statistics really paint a picture for us. Can you talk about the numbers and what they reveal? Speaker 2: 01:41 Yeah, well, um, you know, back in December, they came out and said that, um, in the last month the women had lost 156,000 jobs while men had gained 16,000. Um, and you know, that's not to say that men didn't lose jobs, but they gained more than they had lost overall. And I just think that that's such a stark contrast to show that women are in the kinds of jobs that were most impacted or that women were most likely to step away from the workforce. Speaker 1: 02:15 And earlier you noted many women in the workforce are balancing the challenges of work and caretaking, what type of adjustments have some women had to make during the pandemic? Speaker 2: 02:26 Well, we know that, um, 94% of workers who involuntarily went part-time because of childcare needs were women. Uh, so that's, you know, women having to say, I'm going to step back from my career from my job, uh, so that I can take care of my family or sometimes elder care also, I think is really important. Um, the other thing that I think women have really been, um, challenged with always, but particularly during the pandemic is something I've been looking a lot into is, um, the mental load of motherhood. So all of the, um, invisible labor of the thinking and the planning and, you know, even in the most supportive and progressive households where couples split the chores evenly. And I have to say, I'm very lucky to have a supportive spouse and supportive parents. Um, it's the woman who is thinking about, you know, Oh, school's going to be closed for a week in June. I need to make plans or Friday is costume day or, um, so-and-so's birthday is coming up. And that mental load, I think on top of all of the mental strain of the pandemic is really, um, impacting women much more disproportionately than men. Speaker 1: 03:36 And right now, you know, more people are getting vaccinated, schools are looking to reopen. And so our businesses, it seems like we could soon return to a sense of normal. Um, but as we turn this corner, how do you think the workforce may be changed moving forward? Speaker 2: 03:52 Yeah, well, I mean, I think return to work is very dependent on school reopenings um, and, and we're going to see those, uh, continue to be intertwined. I know, um, my husband is a teacher and, uh, when there's one child that's sick in the classroom that entire class closes for two weeks. So even though they've gone back to school, um, and you know, they're meeting in person and at any moment, all of a sudden we have to figure out, Oh, what does childcare look like for these two weeks? Uh, and I think we're going to need employers to be flexible and to understand that transition. I think we also, um, have learned that working at home, um, you know, women are incredible and we're able to juggle a lot of things. And so when people are asking for flexible schedules or, um, sometimes predictable schedules is, is what might be more helpful, um, or the ability to work from to continue to work from home. We've proven that those are very effective and productive, and we're going to need employers to, to work with us, um, and to work with the workforce overall, to implement some of these temporary things that we've put in place and make them more permanent. Speaker 1: 05:01 You say that the Xi session must be followed by a Shi coverage in order for the economy to really bounce back. What do you see happening if employers don't get this right? Speaker 2: 05:14 Well, I think we miss the opportunity to have diverse voices at the table. And, um, women bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience and insight, and we can be inadvertently, um, sort of, you know, losing that, that perspective and that diversity at the table. And, and we know that when women are engaged in the workplace, there is, um, more productivity, better product. You know, anytime you have diverse voices at the table or diverse representation, the end product is better. Um, and, and more representative of the community in which you work or the community, in my case, at a non-profit the community that we serve. And so I think, uh, if we don't pay attention to figuring out ways to get women intentionally back to the workplace, uh, we'll really be missing out on that voice. Speaker 1: 06:05 I've been speaking with Shayna gross vice president of client services at San Diego workforce partnership. Shana, thank you so much for joining us. Speaker 2: 06:14 Thank you for having me.

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Shaina Gross who is Vice President of Client Services at San Diego Workforce Partnership joined Midday Edition to talk about ways employers can create equity for women in the workplace post pandemic.
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