Family responsibilities lead to changes for women in the workforce

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 2:03 PM EDT
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MID-MICHIGAN (WJRT) - The coronavirus pandemic has changed the workforce over the past year.

Millions of workers were furloughed or transitioned to working from home and some were pushed out of the workforce completely. Some of those adjustments are still having an effect.

Of the 3 million American women who left their jobs over the last year, many say their main reason was to care for their families during the difficult time. This could affect the future of the workforce, including one woman who is transitioning into her new stay-at-home mom career.

Women made up nearly 50% of the American workforce before the pandemic. But one year later, that number has dropped dramatically leaving a new hole in the labor force.

The unemployment numbers have been some of the highest ever seen in America. For the most part during the peak of the pandemic, the numbers for men and women have been about the same.

“Those numbers were around 4.4 to 4.5% for both gender categories. But what’s happened post pandemic has been fascinating. That skyrocketed to almost 17% for women in April of 2020 and 13.5% for men,” said Jared Coseglia, the founder and CEO Tru Staffing Partners.

He said looking at the current unemployment rates, the numbers don’t tell the full story.

“In April of 2021, women actually have lower unemployment numbers than men. But those numbers are very deceiving, because what those numbers don’t account for are the women who have dropped out of the workforce and are not looking for work anymore,” Coseglia said. “Add back in those women and the actual unemployment numbers are around 8.1% which is about 1.5x where men are right now.”

He believes part of the reason these numbers are so drastically different is the type of jobs that many women had pre-pandemic.

“Let’s be frank, the pandemic disproportionally disrupted careers where women work in jobs,” Coseglia said. “Hospitality, education, travel, leisure -- a lot of these industries couldn’t quickly convert to remote work from home lifestyles. Even if they could, the reality if most households still rely on women to take care of the children and the household.”

That’s exactly what happened for Sarah Stone, who is a mother of three juggling her job at a day care, her own kids all under the age of 9 and keeping her home in order. She was first laid off like many others, but after returning to work for a few months, it just wasn’t feasible for her family anymore.

“I tried to bring home and get as many hours as I could, but with pandemic, having to be quarantined or Braxton having to be homeschooled due to quarantine, it just got really overwhelming and out of hand,” Stone said. “So in January, I quit to full-time homeschool and manage a household.”

The decision to pull herself from the workforce altogether wasn’t easy, but she said she did what was necessary with the support of her husband Kolin.

“It’s a decision that we made together,” Sarah said. “We had to write down all of our bills, how much that was going to cost a month vs. me working and me not working. It only made sense for me to stay home with the children. If I wasn’t working due to quarantine, I wouldn’t bring home any money to contribute to bills after day care cost.”

While she knows it’s right for her family in this moment, there are days where it takes a toll on her to be away from a work environment.

“I think, honestly, that’s the hardest part sometimes with staying home and homeschooling these kids for nine hours a day. I’m by myself for nine hours a day. I don’t really have anyone to talk to,” Stone said. “I can call and talk to my friends, but it’s not really the same to feel fulfilled and feel like I’m more than just a mom.”

Coseglia said women like her play an important role in a work environment and helping to create a more successful business.

“Studies show that a more inclusive workforce, no matter if that’s gender or racial diversity, creates a better work environment, extends the tenure of all employees, and generally has higher employee satisfaction. Those studies really never change,” he said.

Stone wants to return to her job soon and continue to pursue her career goals. She wants to set an example for other young girls that it’s possible to be a mom and a career woman no matter what the world brings.

Coseglia said one of the critical ways to get women back into the workforce is to encourage men to step up at home more and to continue to change the way people look at gender roles in the home.

There is help for mothers wanting to get back into the workforce. The Mom Project is an online resource linking women to opportunities, extra insight and support to get back into the workforce.

Copyright 2021 WJRT. All rights reserved.