• COVID-19 has laid off or reduced pay for women at higher rates than men, taking longer for them to recover as well
  • Women are more likely to deal with the increasing domestic workload
  • These factors may mean that reduced female presence in the workforce could long outlive the pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying lockdown wear on, data indicates that women are among the groups hit hardest. Increasing domestic workloads and disparities in workplace opportunities mean that women may take much longer to recover than men.

A bipartisan investigation in the UK found that many of the sectors most savaged by the pandemic, such as restaurants and service industries, disproportionately employed women. Meanwhile, the few industries that have benefited from COVID-19 mostly employ men, such as moving companies and logistics businesses, according to LinkedIn data.

The disparity between men and women in promotions and raises also grew during the pandemic. Both men and women took hits to their earnings at the start of the pandemic, but only 44% of women had recovered, compared to 52% of men. For those that hadn’t, recouping their losses can take years if it’s possible at all.

“As somebody who’s been unemployed a few times over the course of my career and who’s taken a pay cut or two, it takes time to get back to that level that you were at previously, salary-wise,” Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst for LendingTree, told CNBC. “There’s no question that a fair number of people who had pay cuts will end up with lower salaries for the rest of their careers in part because of this, and that’s a significant thing.”

Woman with mask
A woman is seen carrying a face mask on November 23, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. Daniel Pockett/Getty Images

Childcare businesses are shutting down as parents keep their children home and social distancing mandates reduce their capacity. If couples who want to both work can’t find anyone to care for children, it’s women who disproportionately shoulder the burden of childcare.

All of these factors combine into a perfect storm to reduce female presence in the workforce long-term. Women are more likely to have lost their jobs or taken a pay cut, there’s more work to do around the house and women are likely to spend more time doing it. Women are less likely to recover quickly from professional setbacks.

“It may no longer make financial sense for her to work,” Schulz said. “There are a lot of different ramifications.”