Women Face Numerous Setbacks Due to COVID-19

What is International Women’s Day?

Celebrated on March 8th, International Women’s Day has a history spanning over 100 years. Originally held to honor working women, over time the day has evolved to focus on women’s rights and feminism more broadly. It became an official United Nation’s “International Day” in 1975.

The picture in 2021: challenges facing women due to COVID-19

The past year has been difficult and challenging for all of us—at this point, everyone’s life has been touched by the global COVID-19 pandemic in one way or another. However, as a whole, the progress women have made in society and the workplace has seen a particularly worrying setback—especially for poor women and women of color.

A report released late last year by the Congressional Research Service, the public policy research institute of the U.S. Congress, showed that women suffered disproportionately from employment loses over the course of 2020. This is largely due to two reasons: Women are more likely to make up the workforce of service and caregiving industries (such as health care, hospitality, and retail), and they are more likely to step out of the workforce to take on caregiving responsibilities at home (helping children with remote schooling, caring for sick or elderly family members). Once again, this is particularly acute for lower income women and women of color. The picture isn’t much better in other high-income countries—a report released just last week by the European Institute for Gender Equality paints a picture very similar to that in the United States.

The long-term implications for women as a whole are dire if these losses aren’t reversed. A lack of financial resources and stability often traps women in abusive or exploitative relationships. Lower lifetime earnings contribute to economic insecurity for older women in particular. And lower participation in the workforce is a huge setback to gains made towards gender equality, as more women are relegated to unpaid caretaker roles in the home and are excluded from certain aspects of public life.

Looking forward

Of course, the pandemic will one day subside—hopefully sooner rather than later. The past year has shined a harsh light on inequalities that have persisted despite decades of progress. Of course, uncovering them offers the opportunity to make positive changes for the future. Flexible work arrangements, progressive childcare policies, lowering the cost of education, increasing access to affordable health care, and other initiatives will go a long way towards narrowing the gender gap and preventing a future crisis from having such a lopsided effect on society. Hopefully, this International Women’s Day will help everyone re-imagine a future where all women are offered equal opportunities to pursue the futures of their choice—in education, work, and family.

International Women’s Day event

Stacie Murphy, our Director of Congressional Relations, spoke in a round table with New Hampshire Congressman Chris Pappas on International Women’s Day. Watch the video below (Stacie begins her presentation of our mission and goals at minute 8:30 and speaks several times throughout the remainder of the event).

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