Shelter-in-Place Crisis Hits Women Workers Hard

Even as state governors ease COVID-19 restrictions, people continue to suffer tragedies and terrible hardships from the pandemic. Everyone is affected, but women workers face a terrible combination of challenges. Even without COVID-19, women are expected to bring home a paycheck and provide numerous unpaid services to their families – cooking, cleaning, childcare, and more.

Now with mass joblessness, and unemployment compensation being totally inadequate in this country, as well as extremely difficult to file for, often arriving months late, the financial pressure is on. Groceries, or rent? A doctor’s visit for a kid, or the gas and electric bill?

But that’s not all. When jobs disappear, women lose more than their share. And when schools close, women are in the frontlines to provide daycare. With some workplaces reopening while schools stay closed, the daycare problem becomes more of a crisis. And many summer camps will be closed this year. This makes it generally harder for women to go back to work now than it is for men. Recent research shows that parents are spending nearly twice as much time on housework and children’s education at home than before the pandemic, and mothers are spending 15 hours per week more than fathers.

In short, the pressures of a sexist society normally demand that women both get a paycheck and shoulder the bulk, or maybe all, of unpaid work at home. Now, in a crisis that affects employment, health care, education, housing, and more, women are again paying the greatest price. This is, of course, generally even worse for women of color. The mass reaction to George Floyd’s murder by racist cops is encouraging, but this fight against the blatant disregard for Black life has to be connected to the many ways that we are oppressed by a society which sees all humans as resources – resources that are only valued for squeezing profit out of.