By Jessica Larson, SolopreneurJournal.com
The pandemic hit women harder than men, and women of color were affected more than most. Recently, even as women as a whole bounced back to some extent, Black women and Latinas have continued to struggle.
The numbers show that women’s unemployment soared to 16.2% in April 2020, which was more than 2.5 percentage points above the jobless rate for men. While the rate for women overall had rebounded to 6.4% by November, that was well below the rate for Latinas (8.2%) and Black women (9%).
The reason? Black women were more likely to have jobs that were affected by the pandemic than women in general. Specifically, a larger percentage of Black women held jobs in the service sector: 23%. This includes positions such as housekeeping, teaching, and entertainment. Others were employed in the hospitality sector, where bars, restaurants, and hair salons were especially hard hit.
The problems were even more acute for working mothers, many of whom had to choose between their jobs and staying at home to care for their children with the widespread closure of daycares across the country. Even now, as more vaccines are distributed and most businesses are reopening at full capacity, the future of many women in the workplace feels uncertain.
Here are a few steps working mothers can take to help them navigate the “she-cession.”
Look for New Opportunities
A new opportunity can take many forms. Some women will be returning to the workforce in similar positions, while others may be branching out into something completely different.
With the pandemic easing and more businesses reopening, service and hospitality sector jobs are opening back up, too. But that might not be enough for females who have set their sights higher. For example, the labor shortage in the fast-food industry indicates dissatisfaction with pay and working conditions, and workers are demanding more pay and flexibility before they return.
Many women used the global health crisis as an opportunity to broaden their skill set, looking to shift gears upon returning to work. Burned by layoffs and closures, they sought out sectors less likely to be affected by factors such as the pandemic and completed training in areas that enabled them to work from home and take care of their families at the same time. Some became authors and freelance editors, while others sought out training in areas like web development, grant writing, and search engine optimization: skills they could employ remotely that are in increasing demand.
Find Strength in Numbers
“Strength in numbers” is a saying adopted by the Golden State Warriors during their NBA championship runs to emphasize teamwork. It’s also a great way to describe how women responded during the pandemic, upping their game in terms of networking through social media, professional connections, and simply staying in touch and encouraging one another.
There are a number of stories, in particular, of Black men and women working together to improve their employment prospects. One example: Black Girls Code is inspiring Black girls ages 7 to 17 to enter the tech world, where there’s ample room for growth in the pandemic and post-pandemic world.
Elsewhere, talent agencies like People Of Color Careers, are actively seeking out Black women and placing them in fulfilling jobs and rewarding careers. Mentorships are also available, as are internships and apprenticeships.
Meanwhile, mothers are coordinating their schedules to fill the void left by closed daycares, looking after friends’, neighbors’, and family members’ children to free working mothers up to continue their careers.
Bolster Your Finances
There’s nothing like a financial crisis to make you re-evaluate your budget and shift your spending habits. The importance of having a safety net in the event of a crisis has never been clearer, and working mothers are increasingly in charge of household finances.
Many people turned to budget apps as they sought creative ways to make ends meet. They also refocused on the value of investing wisely and building good credit, long-term strategies that can pay dividends after COVID is history.
Corporately, Black Americans leveraged their buying power into more business opportunities. African Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually. That’s a lot of cash, and it translates into major niches that can produce substantial rewards for savvy entrepreneurs and investors.
But 2020 statistics revealed that just 4% of startups were founded by Black women, and just 35% of Black business owners were women. There’s clearly room for growth there, too.
Advocate for Yourself
Women, and Black women in particular, face obstacles that other members of the workforce don’t. As of 2017, Black women earned just 61 cents on every dollar, compared to a white man. At least some of that gap can be attributed to longstanding racial and gender biases.
In response, advocacy groups are working to bolster legal protections against discrimination and advocate for workplace training to educate workers. They’re supporting concepts that will positively affect working mothers, such as paid family leave, healthcare reform, affordable child care, and increased employee benefits.
They are also seeking programs like a new Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, a 1991 panel tasked with improving earnings for women and minorities that did its work over a four-year period.
By challenging the status quo through training, networking, being financially proactive, and advocating to end inequities and discrimination, working mothers are moving beyond the pandemic by seeking to open up an array of opportunities for themselves in the years ahead.
Photo Source: https://unsplash.com/photos/zQQ6Y5_RtHE
Bio:My name is Jessica Larson. I’m a married Midwestern mom and a solopreneur. I create online courses for students, and I’ve started and run several other businesses through the years. My goals are to support my family while still actually spending time with them, to act as an entrepreneurial role model for my two daughters, and to share what I’ve learned through The Solopreneur Journal.