A woman walks her son into a school building.

A student is accompanied by his mother as he enters Meyer Levin Middle School, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in New York. From work to education to home life, women have borne the burden of the pandemic, according to experts.

Credit: Mark Lennihan, AP

Friday on Political Rewind: The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated existing inequities across society. One example is the severe economic and personal toll coronavirus has had on women — both at work and at home.

Data that has emerged during the COVID-19 crisis underlines a stark economic reality for women. Since the beginning of the economic shutdown last year, 2.1 million women have dropped out of the workforce in the United States. According to the National Women's Law Center, women accounted for 55% of U.S. jobs lost in the last year. That jeopardizes the economic and societal progress women have made, particularly in the working world, while the pay gap between men and women grows. These hardships are even more pronounced for women of color, who were already disadvantaged compared to their white counterparts, long before the pandemic began.

Taifa Smith Butler, president of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, said women entrepreneurs face unique challenges in the current economy and receive a disproportionate lack of support from efforts to aid small business.

"We have seen entrepreneurs' doors close and not have access to capital or support with the payment protection programs," Butler said. "Looking at women entrepreneurs, will they be able to maintain and sustain their economic growth and their businesses through this pandemic?"

Some experts say it could be years before women recover from the economic setbacks dealt by the virus. 

These financial and professional hardships are in addition to the mental and emotional stress that working mothers, and women overall, face while trying to balance family and home responsibilities with their jobs. Subha Barry, president of Working Mother Media, pointed to the concept of the "third shift," otherwise known as the "mental workload" of managing a household.

"Long before this pandemic started, women were actually always working a third shift — and that is whether or not you had children," Barry said. "You still work the third shift. If you think of the first shift as work, second shift as home, the third shift was planning for everything — from the birthday parties to remembering to send out the gifts and cards, to organizing everything, to making sure there's, you know, the grocery lists are made even if somebody else did the grocery shopping. So there was a third shift already. Think about the added burden on top of that that has come in on women."


Subha Barry — President of Working Mother Media

Taifa Smith Butler — President and CEO of Georgia Budget and Policy Institute

Rep. Teri Anulewicz — State Representative (D-Smyrna)