“Other countries have social safety nets. The U.S. has women.” – sociologist Jessica Calarco1
The tumultuous year of 2020 may be over, but the coronavirus pandemic and the significant financial insecurity facing many women and their families are not. As the year closed out, the nation’s employment numbers for December revealed that the nonfarm payroll job losses for the month were entirely borne by women.2 This development, while unique to December, is emblematic of the disproportionate damage to women’s employment that occurred during the year: Women and their families, who were already treading water before the pandemic,3 are bearing the brunt of this crisis.
Over the course of the first 10 months of the pandemic, women—particularly women of color—have lost more jobs than men as industries dominated by women have been hit the hardest.4 Overall, women have lost a net of 5.4 million jobs during the recession5—nearly 1 million more job losses than men.6 The job losses in December are a stark illustration of these trends: Black, Hispanic, and Asian women accounted for all of women’s job losses that month, and 154,000 Black women dropped out of the labor force entirely.7 This push of job losses, combined with the pull of increased caregiving at home,8 has created a recession in which more women have been affected, leading Dr. C. Nicole Mason to dub it the first ever “she-cession.”9 Congress and the federal government’s failure to act immediately has only further jeopardized families’ fragile economic security and has the potential to create lasting harm for women’s careers and the U.S. economy as a whole.