IN FOCUS Discussion: COVID-19’s impact on women in Utah

In Focus

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of Utahns in profound ways. However, a host of national and global reports have argued that women’s employment and careers have been disproportionately impacted during this time.

A McKinsey & Company and Lean In report stated that women are more likely to have been laid off or furloughed, leading to greater financial instability and stalled careers. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported that women, and particularly women of color, have unduly experienced job losses and have had greater struggles with managing paid work, caregiving responsibilities, and other types of unpaid work obligations.

To better understand the experiences of women in Utah specifically, the Utah Women & Leadership Project conducted an extensive, in-depth survey focusing on the impacts of COVID-19 on women and work. It looked at changes in employment status, work status, and emotional wellbeing. It analyzed the different experiences for entrepreneurs versus other women in the workforce, the type of special support offered by employers during the pandemic, as well as food, housing, and financial uncertainty among working women.

The participants surveyed came from different settings, backgrounds, and situations such as age, education, race/ethnicity, marital status, socioeconomic, county/region, job type, sector/industry, hours worked per week, employment status, and workplace situation. A total of 3,542 women completed the survey conducted in January.

Some of the findings in the study indicated that women in industries such as manufacturing, food services, hospitality, and sales have experienced some of the largest percentages of negative impacts to income and increases in hours worked. Those who reported being entrepreneurs and having lower household income tended to have more concerns about negative outcomes from the pandemic.

Approximately 9.2 percent of women surveyed expressed they were concerned about domestic violence brought on by the pandemic. The research suggested that government and law enforcement increase resources for prevention education and support services for survivors; expand public/private partnerships to address food insecurity, housing challenges, and short-term financial stress; and investing in longer-term programs for low-income women to rebuild financial stability and reverse the net-worth losses due to the pandemic.

Women working from home reported slightly greater agreement that they are experiencing mental decline, burnout, and exhaustion from additional responsibilities in the home than those working at their employers’ worksite. The study stated that some of the ways employers could improve conditions and quality of life for women in Utah are flexible work arrangements, leave policies, and childcare support.

State and local governments could implement policies that benefit women’s recovery from the negative impact of COVID-19 and positively affect women in the future. These include public policies that focus on narrowing the gender pay gap, including return-to-work initiatives, and provide incentives that encourage businesses to implement family-friend and inclusive policies.

Dr. Susan Madsen, Director of the Utah Women & Leadership Project at Utah State University joined ABC4’s Emily Florez for an IN FOCUS discussion on the CW30 News at 7 p.m. to discuss the findings of this study in more detail.

Dr. Sara McPhee Lafkas, Assistant Professor of Social Work at Utah Valley University also joined the conversation to share her own personal, lived experiences of juggling work and family responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To read the full research and policy brief on the Impact of COVID-19 on Utah Women and Work: Changes, Burnout, & Hope, click here.

To watch the full IN FOCUS discussion with Dr. Madsen and Dr. Lafkas, click on the video at the top of the article.

Catch IN FOCUS discussions with ABC4’s Rosie Nguyen weeknights on the CW30 News at 7 p.m.

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