A year ago, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic.
It has been one difficult year, and the COVID-19 crisis radically altered the social and economic fabric of the United States. This past year, we experienced lockdown orders, witnessed food bank lines wrapped around blocks and most of the nation’s students moved to virtual-only education.
We have felt unbearable sadness at the inequity of social conditions that powered the pandemic, and the profound shock of over 530,000 deaths (and counting). For many, this past year was an emotional and economic roller coaster, taking an unbearable toll on many across the country.
But if there’s one group who suffered the most significant social and economic impacts during this national health crisis, it was undoubtedly women, and especially Black and Brown women.
Since March 2020, over 2.3 million women have left the workforce. This past February 2021, the labor force participation rate for women in the U.S. was 57%, the lowest rate since the late 1980s.
Women have left the workforce for a multitude of reasons:
- Overrepresentation in industries significantly affected by COVID-19
- Caregiving responsibilities
- Little to no flexibility at work
- Physical and mental health effects
- Wage and wealth gaps
Women of color, many of whom may be essential workers, are vital contributors to both their families and their communities, but enduring inequalities powered by racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination and bias have long contributed to an uneven playing field. Black and Brown women have both the intersectionality of gender and race to navigate, making the ability to earn fair wages, save for emergencies and retirement, live in a “good” zip code and access adequate health services all the more challenging.
Our identities are multilayered, our approach must be intersectional just like these issues.
Today, as the one-year mark of this she-cession and Women’s History Month coincide, we’re launching a popup publishing series to sort through all the ways women have been impacted by the pandemic and economic fallout. Over the coming weeks, we’ll publish essays from NCRC staff, members, local leaders and national partners who can give a voice to the concerns, issues and solutions for women, specifically Black, indigenous and women of color, who have been living through and managing this health and economic crisis for the past year.
Our hope is that this series starts our conversation on this vital topic, as we lead up to the Just Economy Conference in May, which will include a session on this same theme: Women in Crisis: America’s First Female Recession.
Learn More & Register: Just Economy Conference
The series begins with Sally Sim, a research consultant for NCRC’s race, wealth and community team, and the Chief of Race, Wealth and Community Dedrick Asante-Muhammad. Their piece looks at women of color’s wealth and how COVID-19 is reducing what little there was to begin with.
We know a few conference sessions and blog posts are not enough to talk about all the ways the pandemic has impacted women and possible solutions. Share your thoughts, concerns, hopes and possible solutions in the Just Economy Forum or on our Jamboard. While discussion in the Just Economy Forum is limited to NCRC and Just Club members, Jamboard is open to the public.
Karen Kali is NCRC’s Senior Program Manager of Special Initiatives.
Anneliese Lederer is NCRC’s Director of Fair Lending & Consumer Protection.
Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash