14% of women considered quitting their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic
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Less than two weeks into Seattle’s coronavirus lockdown, Angela sat down with her husband. Juggling childcare and job responsibilities was becoming unmanageable—would it make more sense for her to stop working as long as their two children were home from school?
Angela, who requested that Fortune use only her first name, as her employer doesn’t know she has thought about leaving, is one of 14% of women who are considering quitting their jobs because of the family demands created by the coronavirus crisis, according to a survey conducted by Syndio. Eleven percent of men told the pay-equity software company that they have considered doing the same. Another 10% of men reported that their partner or spouse is considering quitting, while 6% of women had the same answer.
The data reveal yet another way inequities in employment are playing out during the crisis. Women work two-thirds of minimum wage jobs, putting them at increased risk of unemployment (in the case of all-but-closed retail and hospitality industries) and illness (in the case of essential jobs like grocery cashiers).
“It’s concerning to see more women than men contemplating leaving the workforce, even for a short time,” says Syndio CEO Maria Colacurcio. Syndio, with SurveyMonkey, surveyed 1,500 people on March 30 and 31.
Breaking down the data by race, 26% of Hispanic women who responded to the survey said they were considering quitting their jobs, compared with 15% of both black and Asian women and 12% of white women.
“Latinas are more likely to be in jobs in sectors with little to no flexibility around scheduling—lower-wage jobs that require you to show up and are now considered essential,” says Nicole Mason, president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “You have to make hard choices, and quitting becomes a consideration when there’s nobody to provide childcare.”
Women leaving the workforce under the pressures of a global crisis could have long-term consequences. The 80-cents-on-the-dollar gender pay gap increases for working mothers, and lost earnings during a limited period compound over time. Annual earnings for women who took one year out of the workforce between 2001 and 2015 were 39% lower than earnings for women who worked straight through those 15 years, according to a 2018 IWPR report.
Mothers who stop working face challenges returning where they left off. “[Leaving the workforce] does stall their careers, and it takes them longer to achieve career success,” Mason says.
Seventy-one percent of mothers with children under 18 work outside the home, while 41% of women with children are the sole or primary breadwinner for their families.
For Angela, the idea that she should be the one to consider quitting was primarily based on the couple’s finances: Her job in the outdoor industry brings in less money than her husband’s as an engineer. Like many women making these calculations right now, Angela wasn’t considering leaving the workforce before the pandemic hit. “The biggest part of my decision is how to best take care of my kids,” she says. “If the global situation weren’t happening, they’d be in school right now.”
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