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How Working Women Have Been Disproportionately Affected by COVID

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at McMaster chapter.

It’s a bold statement to make, but unfortunately it’s true. It boils down to the fact that those lower on the corporate ladder are the ones most severely affected by the pandemic. And when we think about who occupies the lower rungs of the ladder, it encompasses a few groups: young people which can include teenagers working their first job, fresh graduates in entry-level positions, people of colour, and women. 

Mothers are among one of the most affected groups, and it’s hardly a surprise. Working mothers have worked “double shift” schedules, even pre-pandemic. The effects of COVID have only exacerbated the issue, with schools being closed and children being home. Women tend to be the primary caregivers for children and relatives and do the majority of the household labour. Prior to the pandemic, daycare services and schooldays shouldered some of the burdens of childcare, but the pandemic has changed that like many other things. With these services no longer available to the extent they were, it falls to parents, particularly mothers, to juggle their career alongside their family life.

Unfortunately, this raises new concerns for mothers. Women have always had to face a certain level of stigma. The ‘Women in the Workplace’ study by McKinsey & Group notes, “there’s a false perception that mothers can’t be truly invested in both family and work and are therefore less committed than fathers and women without children.” And if mothers choose to take advantage of the more flexible work options, it seems that this perception is validated, though it is untrue, and women continue to perform just as well as their other colleagues.

Even women without children are dealing with the effects of the pandemic disproportionately. Deloitte’s study ‘Understanding the pandemic’s impact on working women’ states that women who do not have children feel they have to be available to work at all times, including their off-hours, even more so than those women with children. They feel that there is a significant burden on both their personal time as well as their on-the-clock hours. This has led to an increased feeling of burnout. 

Furthermore, there are still many jobs and even entire careers separated by lines of gender, for example, healthcare and retail, to name a few. And since more women tend to occupy the lower-level positions, they were also the first to be laid off. Another McKinsey & Company article noted that jobs that are more often occupied by women are “19 percent more at risk than male ones simply because women are disproportionately represented in sectors negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis.” According to the Wall Street Journal Noted, women made up “54 percent of the COVID-related job losses.” When we look on a global scale, job loss is 1.8 times higher for women at 5.7 percent as opposed to the 3.1 percent for men. This rollback has potentially debilitating implications for the financial stability of women. It predominantly affects young women joining the workforce with fewer prospects than ever before in terms of career progression and single mothers trying to support dependents on a single salary while juggling unpaid household responsibilities and their work-related responsibilities.

This all paints a troubling picture. One way or another, this pandemic has an impact on future career progression for women. As a result, many women are considering either stepping back from their careers, taking a leave of absence, or even quitting altogether.


Siona Deb

McMaster '23

Siona is a second year student at McMaster in the Actuarial and Financial Math program. She loves reading sci-fi and fantasy novels and drawing.