The Future of Work: COVID-19’s Impact on Women

In 2020, the world has grappled with an unprecedented shock in the form of COVID-19. The global pandemic has had far-reaching impacts in nearly every aspect of public and private life. However, one of the chief sources of concern for many policymakers is the acutely negative impacts COVID-19 has had on communities of color and women, who have disproportionately suffered the consequences of rising unemployment and workplace risk in our new reality. In this brief, the Bell Policy Center examines many of the ways women have fared over the course of the pandemic. 

In previous years, the Bell Policy Center analyzed gender gaps in trends in automation and emerging technology, the growth in alternative work arrangements, and changing education and training needs. This brief takes many of the insights from those reports and builds on the unique ways COVID-19 will accelerate and exacerbate existing trends and gaps without targeted policy interventions. 

Women are at the frontlines of work during the pandemic: They are more likely to work in essential occupations than men and comprise a vast majority of health care workers. These occupations however are also more likely to have lower wages and insufficient worker protections. On the other end, changing needs at home, like providing child care, have led to higher rates of unemployment for women. Subsequently, this is the first recession where women have suffered the majority of job losses

Fortunately, policymakers can implement significant changes that will help redress existing gaps and help ensure that women can achieve more equitable workforce participation moving forward. Some of these changes include implementing innovations to postsecondary education to provide greater flexibility for women furthering their education, providing affordable and accessible child care and paid family medical leave, and raising the minimum wage and Medicaid reimbursement rates. These policy changes will address the particular challenges faced by women, but will also benefit all Colorado workers. 

This brief builds on both our 2018 report, The Future of Work: Implications for Colorado Women, and our 2019 brief, The Future of Work: Education & Workforce Gaps Affecting Colorado Women

This brief was funded by a grant from The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, made with support from The Chambers Fund, a donor-advised fund of The Women’s Foundation of Colorado.

You can read the brief in its entirety below (refresh your browser if it doesn’t appear) to you can download your own copy by clicking here.