Several women said the pandemic has forced them to reconsider how to balance their professional and home lives.
“I fully expect to have to choose between my family and my job of almost 10 years very soon, which really isn’t a choice,” she told CNN Business. “It will mean being unemployed for the first time in my adult life, but my family has to come first.”
Katie Simon from Michigan has also been weighing the decision of whether to quit her job since the pandemic started.
“I had to fight for my employer to continue to allow me to work from home because we had no options for child care … They had suggested I take a voluntary layoff with no promise of return,” she said.
But staying at home and forgoing a paycheck is a choice many are unable to make. For single parents, quitting work may not be a option.
“We cannot ignore that many people just cannot quit their jobs,” said Heidi Shierholz, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute.
Some employees might be able to work remotely for longer while their children continue schooling from home. But that’s not an option for people who have to be present at their jobs, such as health care workers or those returning to a retail job.
Distance learning in groups, or pods, for school-age kids might offer some respite here. But many households will continue to struggle.
Undoing progress toward equality
Although male-dominated jobs were the first to go in past recessions, Covid-19 has hit the service sector and consumer-facing jobs the hardest. Those are more often than not held by women.
“We know that women still shoulder the majority of the responsibility for care work. When these care work demands go up it’s totally reasonable to assume that this falls more to women than men,” Shierholz said. “Women will see income declines, because of cutting back hours and some will just end up dropping out.”
Rachel Allred, who is on track to finish her PhD in December, has decided to take care of her 1- and 3-year-old children rather than enter the job market. Her husband will continue to work.
“I’ll be a stay-at-home mom with a freshly minted PhD, doing a preschool co-op with a friend of mine and her little kids,” she said.