Why has COVID-19 been especially harmful for working women?
After decades of struggle, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution gave women in the United States the right to vote. This hard-won right foretold the increasing presence of women not only in the voting booth, but also in the workplace. By the beginning of this year, the centennial of the 19th Amendment’s ratification, women’s labor force participation stood at 58%, nearly a three-fold increase since 1920. Without the increasing participation of women in the workforce, household income growth of the middle class would have remained largely stagnant since the late 1970’s.
While there is much to celebrate, the 19th Amendment’s centennial anniversary also coincides with a major threat to the gains women have made in the workplace: the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing measures required to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus have had staggering economic and social impacts, hitting women particularly hard. COVID-19 is hard on women because the U.S. economy is hard on women, and this virus excels at taking existing tensions and ratcheting them up.
Source: The Brookings Institution