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The She-Cession: the Pandemic’s Impact on Women in the Workforce

by Jessica Palm | Mar 10, 2021

A year into living and working through a global pandemic, we all felt the abrupt changes early on and have settled into what we would consider now a “normal” day-to-day.

Adapting work environments, pivoting business models and realigning our expectations around work/life balance are still evolving. As we continue to navigate what’s next post-pandemic, we’re learning the long-term effects of COVID-19 and what they’ll have on many aspects of our economy, including our current and future workforce.

While the pandemic accelerated companies’ endorsement of remote work policies, in many cases this trend - which had good intentions - has negatively and disproportionately affected women.

National Outlook: 

  • Since the start of the pandemic, more than 4.6 million payroll jobs have been lost by women in the U.S. - The New York Times 

  • Of the 140,000 jobs lost in December 2020, Black and Latina women accounted for all. - Fortune 

  • 32% of women ages 25-44 stated lack of child care as the reason for unemployment. - The New York Times

  • 1-in-4 women are considering stepping out of the workforce or downshifting their careers. - McKinsey

While the national outlook seems grim, certain regions across the country, including Kansas City, have felt less impact than other markets. 

KC Regional Outlook: 

  • The region’s balanced industry mix and workforce make up has insulated the market from some of the intense economic impacts of the pandemic. 

  • Pre-COVID, the workforce in the KC metro was split evenly between women and men, and women have only slightly made up more of the unemployment claims since the start of the pandemic (52% women and 48% men). 

  • Several female-dominated industries in KC that were hit hardest during COVID are recovering faster including health care, social assistance and personal care services. 

What Employers Can Do: 

  • Reinforce Norms Around Flexibility | Encourage employees to set boundaries on sending emails outside of business hours, prioritize self-care and limit length of virtual meetings. 

  • Elevate Female Role Models | Create opportunities for women to connect with each other to share resources, develop mentoring relationships and confide in each others’ experiences. 

  • Offer Mental Health & Wellness Resources | Elevate the importance of wellness by providing online fitness subscriptions, mental health coaching and listings of community resources within your employee benefits. 

  • Subside Child Care | Consider a reimbursement offering for employees around child care, tutoring services and educational technology tools.

  • Reset Workplace Hours | Allow employees to switch shifts with teammates and consider part-time or unpaid leave options based on employees’ needs.

The KC region has regained 75% of the jobs lost at the lowest point of the pandemic. Employers across the region are stepping up to provide proactive and ongoing support for women employees and their families, and the community is rallying together to create long-term solutions to ensure our region’s future female workforce continues to grow and thrive. 

To learn more about talent attraction and retention efforts in the KC region, visit

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