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Working mothers are being disportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic — and experts fear it could have a significant impact on their financial future.
From job losses to career downsizing, women are feeling the hit.
When it comes to promotions, they are also being left behind: 34% of men working remotely with children at home said they received a promotion, versus 9% of women in the same situation, according to an August study by software company Qualtrics and theBoardlist, which focuses on gender parity in the boardroom. The study of 1,051 salaried U.S. employees was conducted July 9-13.
In addition, 26% of men with children at home said they received a pay raise while working remotely, compared to 13% of women with children at home.
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“It is a backwards move for women and it’s not just from a career perspective,” said certified financial planner Stacy Francis, president and CEO of Francis Financial, a New York-based wealth management practice dedicated to services for women. “It is also from a financial perspective.”
If a woman in her 40s gets a pay raise, it will be amplified for the next 20 years to 25 years of her career, Francis explained. So when the woman doesn’t get that raise, it sets her back even more so.
“When we look at women’s retirement nest eggs as they get ready to retire, it is typically significantly less than the amount that men have saved,” said Francis, a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council.
The troubling statistic is one of many highlighting the gap between men and women during the pandemic.
Of the 1.1 million workers over the age of 20 who left the labor force in September, 80% were women, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center.
Meanwhile, 1 in 4 women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce altogether, according to Lean In and McKinsey & Company’s “Women in the Workplace” report released last month.
Women have traditionally borne the brunt of household and childcare duties, Francis said. It’s no different during this health crisis.
Working mothers are more than three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for housework and caregiving, the “Women in the Workplace” report found. They are 1.5 times more likely than fathers to be spending an extra three or more hours a day on those duties, equivalent to 20 hours a week, it said.
“[The crisis is] just exacerbating a problem that has long existed and that we have been trying to chop away at,” said employment-discrimination attorney Megan Goddard, who focuses on equity in the workplace.
In fact, she’s seeing coronavirus-based employment decisions adversely impacting women.
“Employers are using Covid as an excuse to get rid of or get around promoting employees they find ‘less desirable,’ including pregnant women, breast-feeding women, disabled women, women with childcare and elder-care responsibilities, and older female employees especially.”
What to do
Ariel Skelley | DigitalVision | Getty Images
If you feel you have been discriminated against, reach out to an attorney to explore your options, Goddard said.
The pandemic has also highlighted the necessity of childcare, said Holland Haiis, an executive coach who works with women.
“We’ve got to be able to support the men and women who have children,” said Haiis, who is also a corporate consultant. “We have to look at how our world has changed.
“We have to start planning and putting in processes, procedures and systems that work for the way our workforce looks today, and not the way that the workforce looked in 1950 or 1960.”
Here is Haiis’ advice to working women trying to navigate the crisis.
1. Ask for what you want
While men do, women tend to not make their desires known.
“This is an opportunity, ladies, to really dig deep and find that connection to your leadership,” she said.
2. Ask for help
Go to your friends and neighbors for support, like sharing childcare and schooling duties with other moms, Haiis suggests.
“As humans, we actually like to help other people,” she said. “When you help others it releases endorphins and in return, it improves your mood and boosts your self-esteem.”
The same goes for asking your spouse or partner for help. Do it in a way that removes sarcasm, anger and frustration if you feel he or she is not doing enough to help at home.
3. Negotiate with your partner
Don’t necessarily aim for a 50/50 split of household duties with your partner. Instead, negotiate from a place of strength — see what your strengths are versus your partner’s and split accordingly, she advises.
4. Don’t be superwoman
“Let go of your expectations,” Haiis said. “Be forgiving that you can’t do it all.
“None of us can do it all.”