INDIANAPOLIS – COVID-19 made the last year especially hard on parents who are juggling work and school at home. The effect on women was so extreme that a new term was coined to describe it: Shecession.
Shecession refers to women leaving the job force in overwhelming numbers.
The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was diagnosed on January 21, 2020. The first Indiana case was announced March 6, 2020. In the year that followed, moms shouldered a lot of the extra work. Even more than that, single moms did.
“I don’t ever want to relive 2020,” said Jaime Cardona. “If it’s hard on me, I know there are people that are worse off than me.”
Jamie is a single mom of three, two daughters who are 14 and 11-years old, and a 5-year-old son.
“The light of my life,” Jaime said of her youngest. “He’s got autism but he’s very, very rambunctious and just full of life.”
When COVID-19 hit last March, Jaime lost her job as a waitress.
In April, national unemployment soared to its highest rate in history, 14.7 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Indiana’s rate topped that at 16.9 percent, the highest since record keeping began.
Jaime was among many who struggled to find work.
“I did get food stamps for a little while,” she said. “When it came to watching the kids or taking care of the kids, no, that was all me.”
Since February 2020, the National Women’s Law Center reports women suffered the majority of COVID-related job losses, over 5.3 million net jobs lost, 53.8 percent of the total in their February 2021 report.
Rima Shahid, executive director of Women4Change says, still, women struggle the most.
“In January of all the jobs that were lost, 80% of those were jobs that were held by women,” Shahid said of the ongoing issue.
Through the kindness of strangers, non-profits and foodbanks, Jaime made it through. She found a job again in July, caring for the elderly, many with dementia or on hospice.
“I actually kind of felt like I found my purpose, so I loved it, and I worked a lot, I worked hard,” she said.
But then a COVID scare at school forced her kids into virtual learning in December, and Jaime asked for a few days off work.
“They said I should have someone to watch my kids, but also they don’t realize that costs money,” she said.
Then a family tragedy struck, Jaime said her job told her to ‘suck it up and work my shift.’ She was fired a short time later.
“It’s not because people want to choose to be in these difficult positions,” Shahid said. “It’s because they have no other choice. Nobody seeks this out, rather they have nothing else, they’re backed into a corner.”
In two-parent homes, the wage disparity forces more moms than dads out of work.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows, nationally, women make 82 cents for every dollar a man makes. In Indiana the disparity is much greater, where women make 76 cents to a man’s dollar.
But with three kids to feed on her own, Jaime picked herself up again and found a job at a local gas station. It’s admittedly not her ideal job, but Jaime said she’s grateful for the work.
“Don’t get me wrong, I probably go in my room and cry when there’s nobody there, but you’ve got to be strong for your kids.”
Rima Shahid says three law changes are needed from the Indiana State Legislature to protect women: mandate pregnancy accommodations, affordable childcare and banning the salary wage question on job applications. None of those protections are in effect now.
CBS4 Indy Web Extra
Mita Mallick is an expert on diversity, equity and inclusion. In the video below, she spoke with CBS4 Indy about ways employers can foster more equality for women.
Click here to read her article the topic, ‘5 Ways to Bring Women Back into the Post-Pandemic Workforce.’