The ongoing pandemic sparked the unemployment of millions of working Americans. However, some groups were affected more than others. According to a report by ResumeBuilder.com, a professional resume resource for job seekers, women employees were disproportionately pushed out of the workforce during the pandemic, and 35% of women who lost their jobs are still unemployed today.
The survey, which included 1,250 women who either left or lost their jobs during the pandemic, shows one in three women who left the workforce still haven’t returned. Thirty-five percent of women surveyed were let go, while 27% quit due to concerns about Covid or lack of opportunity at work. Others (11%) were forced to leave work to care for their children and 7% of women left to take care of adult family members and loved ones.
The number of women still without work also varied by ethnicity, age, and socioeconomic status. Black women were most likely to be unemployed at 46%. Thirty-nine percent of Hispanic/Latino women were still unemployed and Asian women were the least likely to remain jobless at 24%. Almost half of the low-income women (< $50,000) were still unemployed, compared to 35% of women who made over $50,000. And, 53% percent of women 55 and older are still out of work, compared to 38% of women ages 18-54.
Professional resume writer for Resume Builder, Carolyn Kleiman, says the amount of women still unemployed is “worrisome.”
“Any time there is a large group of people willing and able to work who are out of work, it’s cause for concern,” Kleiman said in the report. “Women make up a large part of the workforce and are particularly dominant in fields like education, personal care, health care, food service, and retail sales. Employment in these fields was highly affected by the pandemic. Now we are seeing a cycle develop that affects other women.”
Though there are currently 11 million open jobs, many survey participants are still struggling to find work. Two out of five women who are still unemployed are actively applying for jobs, but haven’t had any luck getting hired. Additionally, 30% of unemployed women say they haven’t returned to the workforce due to a lack of jobs in their area.
The most recent jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that only 210,000 new jobs were created in November, well below the 573,000 jobs predicted by economists. Women re-entering the workforce gained only 36% of those new jobs, and it's expected that it would take over two years for women to return to pre-pandemic employment levels at that rate, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research.
When asked “what is your best prediction of when you will be able to rejoin the workforce?” many of the survey participants were unsure about the future.
As of November 2021, 29% of women are unsure if they will ever return to the workforce again, and 10% have left the workforce permanently. Meanwhile, 39% of women who remain unemployed are hopeful that they will return to work within six months. But with the omicron variant rapidly spreading across the nation, there’s even more uncertainty about going back to work.
For employers struggling to bring women back to the office, there are two things survey respondents said would spark their interest in returning to work: better pay and benefits. Fifty percent of unemployed women said these two things would help them get back to work. Women also want remote work opportunities (49%) and more flexible hours (42%) in the future. Furthermore, 24% of women also cited affordable and accessible child care as a driving factor in returning to the workforce.
“Hiring managers need to offer flexible work options, including remote or hybrid work, and flexible hours, especially for women who are caring for children or family members,” Kleiman said in the report. “Increasing pay and improving benefits would also make it easier for women to return to work. Additionally, employers should provide training and development opportunities as a recruitment and retention tool.”