The COVID-19 pandemic hit the workforce hard, but women especially have felt the economic impacts. In what a May 2020 New York Times article dubbed the "Shecession," unemployment rates for women have exceeded those of men since the outset of COVID-19 precautions and restrictions last spring.
Employment of women improved in the fall, though still slightly outpaces the cumulative unemployment rate for the nation. Below is a graph via Statista that demonstrates the remarkable fluctuation of hiring for women.
Understanding why this has occurred is vital in order to properly address the issue. For insight into the causes behind this Shecession, the World Economic Forum offers some instructive data.
A primary driving factor are the new stresses and expectations of balancing life and work. With school closures and after-school programs on pause, managing home is its own full-time job -- albeit one without pay or health insurance. Employers can aid in this process by expanding the versatility born out of necessity from the pandemic.
For example, millions of Americans are working at home for the first time. This virtual office can function on a different clock than a company might in a physical workspace. Allowing employees some flexibility in their schedule can alleviate some of the life-work challenges the pandemic has brought on.
Although perhaps not ideal for the long-term, many of the changes we have had to make as a society in response to COVID-19 are temporary. Some versatility is necessary in the short run to get through the difficulties of this time, especially for those disproportionately affected.