By now, we’ve all seen the headlines: the pandemic has been catastrophic for women, with every month revealing shocking numbers of women being laid off or leaving the workforce entirely.
Before the start of the pandemic, working women played a critical role in the economy and the economic security of families. They made up the majority of the civilian nonfarm workforce and were earning advanced degrees and starting businesses at a higher rate than men. At the same time, women were more likely to be breadwinners and caregivers than ever before: three out of five Latinx and White mothers were key contributors to their household’s income and four out of five Black mothers were sole or primary earners.
Despite their outsized economic role, Black and Latinx women had the thinnest financial cushion at the onset of the crisis. They had little or no savings — just pennies on the dollar compared to White men and White women — so they had few resources to rely on when their income was disrupted. They were hit first and hardest by layoffs, as they were disproportionately represented in consumer-facing sectors such as hospitality, food services, and retail.
This piece was originally published as a guest post by our Vice President of Programs Elena Chávez Quezada with Heather McCulloch, Founder and Executive Director of Closing the Women’s Wealth Gap on PolicyLink’s Covid, Race, and the Revolution.