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How the Pandemic Put Women at a Disadvantage

No one will argue they’ve felt the negative impacts of COVID-19 on economic security and personal well-being. But this pandemic triggered a recession that has hurt female-dominated industries and female safety and independence in particular. As the threat of COVID-19 lessens and the world seeks a new normal, it’s important to understand how the pandemic disproportionately affected women and what lasting effects there may be moving forward.

Harmed Economic Security

Unlike most recessions, which tend to hurt male-dominated industries such as manufacturing or construction, the nature of COVID-19 was such that the worst industry sectors to take a hit were retail, education, hospitality, and health care. Women consequently faced greater risk of unemployment, and by the end of 2020 had lost about $800 billion globally from being laid off, getting hours cut, or having to quit due to lack of childcare. According to Brookings, changes in the distribution of labor have had long-lasting effects from previous recessions, so this temporary trend can put women at a severe disadvantage in coming days as they try to reenter the workforce.

Made Them Less Safe

Imagining a lockdown, many would assume women would be safer in general, not just from a virus. However, in part due to the decreased economic security of women and girls, they are much easier prey for sex trafficking and much more vulnerable without the usual avenues of support such as shelter, psychological support, and healthcare. Even being trapped at home has decreased safety. According to Bradley Corbett, Defense Lawyer, domestic violence became a bigger issue with lockdowns in 2020 due to COVID-19. Many states in the United States reported an increase of 21—35 percent. Some countries, like China, saw the problem triple. Considering women experience physical or sexual violence mostly by an intimate partner, it’s no wonder a lockdown isn’t safe.

Lessened Autonomy

Women have made great strides over the past few decades in making decisions for themselves, their household members, and having the ability to move freely and control their economic circumstances. Thanks to COVID-19, one of the biggest resources that has allowed women to have more autonomy has significantly decreased—childcare. According to the Center for American Progress, one out of four women who reported unemployment during the pandemic cited it was due to a lack of childcare, twice the rate of unemployed men. Having a lack of child care infrastructure is a threat to women’s autonomy and often mental well-being as well.

Women already experience gender violence, discrimination, and inequality. With a pandemic, this has only heightened. However the world moves forward from this point, it should be with the disadvantaged state of women in mind.

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