Black women have been particularly severely struck by the epidemic job losses–and they’re still lagging behind in their recovery efforts..
The U.S. economy has rebounded quickly since the coronavirus recession of 2020, but the recovery has mainly failed to benefit Black women.
According to research from the National Women’s Law Center, Black women’s unemployment (5.8%) has been much greater than that of Latinas, Asian women, and white women since December.
Discrimination in hiring, fatigue, and a lack of major perks in lower-paying industries are among the many likely causes of the expanding recovery gap, according to experts.
As Leanin.org co-founder and CEO Rachel Thomas tells CNBC Make It, “If you look at the experiences of Black women in corporate America, there is a pattern that is really clear:
the workplace is worse for women of color than white women, and Black women consistently stand out as having the worst experience of all.” Thomas says. “As a result, the pandemic’s economic collapse has affected Black women particularly severely.”
Make It interviewed Thomas and other experts to find out what is causing this disparity in the economy and how businesses can better support Black women.
In front-line jobs, people get burned out.
There has been an increased danger of getting coronavirus among black women since they have taken on a disproportionate number of front-line roles during the crisis. According to the NWLC, more than one-third of all Black women have worked in front-line positions such as personal care aides, nursing assistants, cashiers, and retail salespeople.
Coronavirus limitations and shutdowns continue to threaten these industries, which have been particularly heavily struck by the pandemic. Women’s employment growth in the leisure and hospitality sector was only 34% in January, although accounting for 53% of the industry’s total workforce.
Even during the height of the pandemic, most of these jobs required employees to show up in person. Jasmine Tucker, the NWLC’s head of research, believes that these factors have put Black women in a vulnerable position because they tend to live in areas with greater transmission rates and are more likely to become ill.
Many of these jobs do not offer fair paid leave or even sick leave policies, so every time you get sick, you risk losing your job,” she states.
Nearly half of all Black women have gone to work during the epidemic despite having a valid cause to stay home, like being sick or lacking child care. If you’re a Black woman, you’re faced with a terrible choice: either quit or show up to work at the expense of your own and your loved ones’ health.
Child care is an issue.
During the epidemic, Black moms have been particularly badly struck by the ongoing child-care crisis, which has resulted in many women being forced out of their jobs.
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, black moms are more likely than their white counterparts to be the principal breadwinners in their households. Many parents have lost their employment as a result of the lack of affordable child care options.
2/3 of Black mothers who work are also single. Because they are mothers or single mothers, “large numbers of Black women have left the workforce because they had to make a difficult choice to leave their occupations during the pandemic,” Thomas says.
As one expert put it: “The absence of inexpensive child care and flexibility within their work has simply created a really untenable, unstable scenario for women, especially mothers of color.”
As a result of these obstacles, it has been difficult for Black women to secure full-time work or to return to the workforce. According to the National Women’s Law Center, roughly a third of Black women without jobs had been out of work for at least six months.
Discrimination in hiring
Black women and other people of color continue to face racism and microaggressions in the workplace despite a renewed focus on diversity and equity at firms following George Floyd’s murder and the pandemic in 2020.
There is still prejudice in the workplace against black women, and those who are long-term unemployed may be even more deterred from seeking jobs, says Tucker.
For Black women, the odds of finding work are higher because “you’re facing all of the biases that go with being a woman, together with the biases that go with being a woman of color,” as Thomas puts it.
When it comes to microaggressions, black women are particularly vulnerable.
“Othering” conduct is more common among black women than among white women, according to the annual “Women in the Workplace” report from Lean In and McKinsey & Company. In comparison to 4% of white women, 17% of black women say they’ve been mistaken for someone else of the same race or ethnicity.
This income difference can be alleviated if employers review their benefits, recruiting, and promotional policies to ensure they are more equitable for women of color in order to reduce the gap.
Incorporating more women of color in the workplace planning and recruiting process, expanding paid leave policies, and creating more structured promotion and mentorship opportunities for Black women are just a few examples of important changes that may be made.
Many companies don’t know how many women of color they’re employing or promoting, says Thomas. In order to ensure that your hiring and promotion processes are equitable, you should keep track of how women of color are moving through your business.”
In light of the recent pandemic, it’s crucial to remember that Black women have been dealing with these concerns long before the pandemic – and it may take a long time to see long-term progress in their working lives.
“We’re trying to see the bright side, but the reality is that things have been pretty horrible for Black women, says Leanin.org’s social media director Nikki Tucker. As a result of the pandemic, many people’s eyes have now been awakened to the plight of Black women.