- The novel coronavirus pandemic has caused economic chaos in the US, and the financial turmoil could be affecting women more than men.
- A recent report by McKinsey & Company finds that job loss rates for women are higher than for men in the pandemic.
- Women make up a large share of the labor force on the front lines of the pandemic and in industries and occupations that have taken particularly large hits during the crisis.
- Using Census Bureau data, we compiled a list of detailed occupations affected by the coronavirus and compared female earnings and employment to those of male workers in these jobs.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused economic chaos across the world, and it could be causing more financial hardships to women than men. Many women have been working in occupations on the front lines of the pandemic or work in jobs that are vulnerable to this unprecedented situation.
A new report by McKinsey & Company found women globally have been 1.8 times as likely to lose their jobs as men because of the pandemic and its economic effects. The report noted that women make up 39% of global employment, and women hold an outsized share of jobs that are particularly vulnerable to job losses at this time. For instance, the report found women make up 54% of jobs globally in accommodations and food services and 43% in retail and wholesale trade, two industries that have been especially negatively impacted by the economic toll of the coronavirus.
"Our analysis shows that female jobs are 19 percent more at risk than male ones simply because women are disproportionately represented in sectors negatively affected by the COVID-19 crisis," the authors wrote in the McKinsey report.
One notable reason for this drop in employment for women is because of the increase in need for unpaid care during this time, with women often ending up taking on most of these responsibilities. McKinsey finds women account for 75% of unpaid-care work globally and that high share is associated with a negative impact on female labor-force participation, based on McKinsey's previous research. McKinsey notes unpaid-care work includes "childcare, caring for the elderly, cooking, and cleaning."
"Before the pandemic began, unpaid work was already a major barrier to women's economic equality. Now, with many schools closed and health systems overwhelmed, more women may be forced to leave the workforce altogether," Melinda Gates wrote in a recent Foreign Affairs article.
Although women are disproportionately affected by the pandemic's effects on work, McKinsey suggests that acting now to improve gender equality could not only reduce the gap between female and male participation in the workforce, but could boost GDP over the next decade.
In the US, women make up a large share of the labor force in jobs and industries that have had job cuts and layoffs throughout the pandemic, as well as occupations on the front lines of the pandemic.
Workers like waitresses, restaurant cooks, and hotel clerks in the leisure and hospitality industry were especially affected by the coronavirus early on as demand for these accommodations declined. The industry lost over 7.5 million jobs in April — the most job losses out of any US industry that month.
Not only are these women putting their own health at risk by working in these positions during a pandemic or trying to manage work with other family responsibilities, they also aren't earning as much as their male counterparts in these professions.
According to a Fortune article for March 31's Equal Pay Day, the pay gap "worsens" the coronavirus' financial impact for women.
Business Insider decided to take a closer look at US jobs especially affected by the coronavirus outbreak in which females make up a large share of the labor force and examine the pay gap in these professions.
We considered 53 occupations on the front lines, including jobs in leisure and hospitality that have experienced the most layoffs in the last few weeks, jobs in healthcare treating coronavirus and other patients, and other jobs affected by the coronavirus like teachers. After compiling this list, we focused on the 14 occupations where at least 75% of the labor force was female in 2018.
We used 2018 data, the most recent available, from the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey on female earnings and employment and male earnings from full-time, year-round workers in those occupations who were age 16 or over.
According to the Census data, women made up 87% of registered nurses and 71% of cashiers. However, female nurses earned just 93% of what male nurses make and female cashiers earned 89% of the typical wages of male cashiers. Waitresses, who have seen a massive wave of layoffs as restaurants and bars temporarily close, made up 65% of restaurant servers, earning 81% of what male waiters make.
Compensation software company PayScale has conducted their own analysis of the gender pay gap and how the coronavirus can exacerbate it. The company has analyzed the US gender pay gap for the past five years.
In this year's report, the company found women in 2020 make 81 cents for every dollar a man makes. When controlling for different factors that influence pay, such as years of job experience, what PayScale called "the controlled pay gap," the company found the gap in 2020 was 98 cents for every dollar a man makes.
"So that's 2% that a female version of me is losing because they're a female, not because of anything else," Director of Research Sudarshan Sampath of PayScale told Business Insider.
In addition to working on the front lines of the pandemic or even just working from home, women are more likely to have to balance work with caring for a sick or elderly family member during the pandemic.
"A lot of women not only are expected to go and work, but they have to come home and take care of their kids too or take care of their family," Sampath said.
Even after the coronavirus pandemic, women who have taken time off or found themselves out of work will likely find a pay penalty just for leaving the workforce. Based on a previous pay gap analysis by PayScale, people who leave the workforce and come back to a new job will receive an offer 7% less than someone currently working in the same kind of position. PayScale said because women are more likely to leave work to take care of family during the coronavirus, they are more likely to see this pay penalty.
"Just the fact that they left their jobs and they're coming back into an unequal workforce, and you're asking them to lose 7% on top of that, that is just a huge impact on the economy overall," Sampath said. "50% of the workforce is women. We don't think about them enough, and that's a huge source of economic loss just generally."
The following three charts take a closer look at occupations on our list of jobs affected by the coronavirus where women made up at least 75% of the labor force. We compared how much female workers earned in 2018 compared to men in the same job:
Female workers make up a large share of teachers, health aides, and hairdressers.
Women make up a large share of employment across jobs that are being negatively impacted by the pandemic. This includes various jobs in businesses that had to temporarily close during the coronavirus or lost customer demand, such as hairdressers and restaurant workers.
Overall, women make up the largest share of the health sector workforce in the US. According to 2018 Census Bureau data, over 11.5 million health and social assistance jobs were held by women, compared to just over 3.6 million male workers in those occupations.
Within the health sector, women make up a large share of nurse practitioners and home health aides, where women made up 88.7% of the employees in both occupations in 2018.
Additionally, educators have been impacted by the coronavirus. Schools across the nation have had to close to help mitigate the spread of the virus, and women make up a large share of teachers.
For instance, female workers made up 97.3% of preschool and kindergarten teachers, the largest share of female employment among occupations on our list. Additionally, female workers made up 84.2% of special education teachers, 83.8% of teaching assistants, and 77.5% of elementary and middle school teachers.
Women also made up a large share of jobs in other industries that are taking a major economic hit from the pandemic. The airline industry is being majorly affected by the coronavirus due to an overall decrease in flight demand. Female workers made up 77.0% of flight attendants in 2018.
Many jobs affected by the coronavirus or on the front lines are low-paying jobs.
Of the top 14 jobs by share of female employment on our list, nurse practitioners earned the most, earning around $102,000. Registered nurses followed behind with earnings of $67,000.
But many other majority-female occupations on our list pay far less than those. According to the National Women's Law Center, many occupations on the frontlines or are considered essential work during the coronavirus are low-paying jobs.
We see this in our own analysis. Nine of the 14 jobs earned less than $30,000 annually, including home health aides and personal care aides who assist the elderly, the most vulnerable age group for the coronavirus.
Childcare workers are particularly financially vulnerable, as demand for day care centers plummets because of social distancing. Female childcare workers already typically earned only around $22,000 annually in 2018.
Vox quoted a childcare worker who said she has seen childcare centers "who rely on private payment losing all of their income," and USA Today cited a childcare worker who is concerned if her center will be able to reopen after the pandemic.
The gender pay gap can be seen in jobs across industries.
In the jobs where women make up a majority of employment, women tend to earn less than their male counterparts.
Of the 14 jobs on our list that have the largest share of female employment, special education teachers had the narrowest pay gap between men and women of 5.1%, where women earn 94.9% of what men earn. In contrast, teaching assistants had the widest pay gap of 26.1%, with women earning 73.9% of male teaching assistants.
Following close behind, female hairdressers, hair stylists, and cosmetologists had the second-widest gender pay gap of 25.6%, earning 74.4% of what male workers earn in the same position.
Hairdressers and stylists have seen a decline in customer demand during the coronavirus. Some hair salons moved to virtual salons, where they helped clients with at-home hair care to keep their businesses afloat, such as one New Jersey hair salon covered by the Wall Street Journal.
Additionally, flight attendants experience the fifth-widest gender pay gap on our list at 17.3%, earning 82.7% of male flight attendants. This is especially troubling during this time as some major airlines have previously reported cutting employees' hours and income.
While retail has been hit hard by the pandemic, the gender pay gap is less extreme in occupations in that industry than in many others. Of the 53 jobs on our larger list, including those where less than 75% of the workforce is female, sales managers, first-line supervisors of retail sales workers, and retail salespersons had some of the narrowest gender pay gaps, only above entertainers and performers. Those occupations all had pay gaps between 28% and 31%. Female workers made up 32% of sales managers, 44% of first-line supervisors, and 39% of retail salespersons in 2018.
Many retailers across the country have closed their doors and many employees have been laid off or furloughed during the coronavirus. PayScale also found wages in general fell for sales workers in the past few weeks.
Sampath said PayScale found that wages in the first quarter of 2020 fell the most in sales jobs.
"When large numbers of people move from working in their offices to their homes, consumer behavior changes significantly," Sampath said.
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