DECATUR, Ga. — Women are almost three times more likely than men to quit their jobs to care for their children since the pandemic began, according to a new government study.
“It was pretty stressful for me. I just felt like I was juggling a lot of things, and not really doing anything well,” said Anna Hamilton.
The Decatur mother of two young boys said helping them with remote learning in the spring while working full-time was tough. “A lot you know just wasn’t getting done and they’re just kind of focusing on whatever is most immediate,” said Hamilton.
Her boys are 6 and 7-years-old. She said they aren’t very tech savvy and need help staying connected to their online classrooms.
“There was a lot of, you know, getting familiar with Google meet. ‘Where did everybody go?’ You know when they like accidentally clicked off a tab,” said Hamilton.
In July when Decatur City Schools announced the fall semester would be online, she decided to quit her job as an investment manager.
“It was just too difficult to have the kids at home and work from home full-time, just because of my work schedule a lot of it was during their school hours,” said Hamilton.
She isn’t alone. According to a new study by the U.S. Census Bureau, women ages 25 to 44 are almost three times as likely as men to not be working due to childcare demands.
“Over the first three months of COVID, women went from being 1 in 4 in the workforce having to drop out for just kind of normal, whatever attrition and reasons to now it’s 1 in 3. And for men, there was no change at all,” said economist KC Conway.
Conway knows firsthand. His wife also stepped back from her job to help their 10-year-old son with special needs with remote learning.
“So my wife has had to bear the brunt of basically putting her career and work on hold. She’s doing part-time freelance work as a journalist,” said Conway.
Women dropping out of the workforce takes a toll on their career advancement. Their skills get rusty. It also takes a toll on their earning power.
“This is probably a five-year setback in earnings when we look at this. This is not a three or six month you know, a couple quarter event that COVID. This is going to go well into next year,” said Conway.
It’s not just women in the workforce being affected.
“Women students, graduate, undergrad across all disciplines are twice as likely to have to do a deferment or drop out because of COVID,” said Conway. He said college students are dropping out to help with childcare for financial reasons.
What will it take for women to get back to school and work?
“I think the two big impediments are No. 1 is companies need liability shield protection to experiment with daycare and things like that. And No. 2, I think is just figuring out the daycare situation,” said Conway.
But Conway believes there is a ray of hope with the Americans with Disabilities Act. He said there are cases being tried that would extend its protections to those staying at home to care for children or an at-risk person, or those who are at-risk themselves.
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