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Is The COVID-19 Pandemic Undoing Years of Progress for Women?

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And What This Means for A US PR Industry Where 70% of the Workforce is Female

While everyone has made changes and sacrifices to their work-life due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report shows that women are disproportionately affected and are, in fact, losing ground they’d previously gained in the workforce.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, between August and September alone, about 1.1 million workers above the age of 20 dropped out of the labor force. Of that number, 865,000 were women. That equates to 4 times more women leaving their positions during the pandemic than men, and another 1 in 4 employed women are considering leaving their jobs.

Why is there such a large difference in this data between men and women? The answer is readily apparent. Historically, women have been forced to fight for an equal opportunity to work in a society where men were favored as the “breadwinners.”

When the pandemic forced everyone to stay home and quarantine, care of the household once again was disproportionately shouldered by women. This meant women were pressured to navigate the demands of their careers while also making sure their children were cared for at home, creating a great deal of stress.

Pandemic protocols decimated child care options at a time when schools were closing. This forced families to try to provide a healthy learning environment for their kids, combining both amusement and productivity at home. Many women did not have the proper resources to care for their kids all hours of the day – while also having to work for their own jobs.

According to reporting from The Holmes Report, 70% of the PR workforce is made up of women, which means there have been major changes in public relations.

Probably the group hit toughest is recent communication and marketing grads looking for jobs in PR. With the universe of clients that can afford PR services shrinks, grads hoping to get a foot in the door are finding it increasingly difficult… leading them to take on jobs in other fields, or none at all.

It’s also affecting the career-minded PR professionals. As it is, only about 30% of women hold top positions in the industry. With the pandemic both limiting career growth options and obligating many women to assume full-time child care activities, the male-female disparity among executive PR positions will only worsen.

Many people have called the COVID pandemic a great equalizer, putting everyone “in the same boat,” however, not everyone is working under the same circumstances. If these recent statistics mean anything, they should inspire employers to be more flexible when it comes to work, especially for women tending to the needs of their family, as to not reverse all the gains women have made in the workplace.