According to the United Nations International Labor Organization, the economic crisis and the continued decline in working hours caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will impact 1.6 billion workers, or half the global workforce. Research by Catalyst, a U.S. non-profit, shows that when companies downsize, diversity becomes secondary, with women and people of color suffering the most. As of August 2020, Black women and Latinas in the United States had unemployment rates of 13.5% and 14% respectively, despite the overall unemployment rate dropping to approximately 10% (National Women’s Law Center report).
The pandemic is also ravaging jobs in industries that are predominately held by women; hospitality, in-person service, retail outlets, beauty services and more. Male-dominated industries, including construction and manufacturing, remain largely unscathed while other industries with predominately male workers have transitioned relatively easily to remote working.
TWO CENTURIES UNTIL GENDER PAY IS EQUAL?
While numbers vary across the globe, women are often seen as the individuals responsible for child and family care. PayScale research and related reports show women frequently incur a wage penalty following a return to work after having children (termed the “motherhood penalty”), often earning 7 percent less on average than men in the same position. This is true even in law firms, tech industry, professional corporations and the like.
In addition to reduced working hours and job losses, women are further disadvantaged by the closure of schools and day care facilities. With kids currently at home and the service and other sectors in disarray, women are struggling just to find work, let alone plan for career advancement. This will inevitably hurt their future job prospects. Economists predict that the gender wage gap will widen by five percentage points, meaning that the average female worker will earn about 76 cents for every dollar her male counterpart earns. The impact will be more severe on minority females, with Black women earning only 62 cents, and Latinas only 54 cents, for every dollar earned by Caucasian males.
Some researchers believe it could take more than 10 years to bring the gender pay gap back to pre-COVID levels. Beyond that, United Nations Women reports that the gender pay gap will not be closed for 257 years.
ON A POSITIVE NOTE:
A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research emphasizes that while women experience short-term and medium-term setbacks, such as unemployment and loss in labor market experience, in the long-term, a pandemic recession can fuel changes that decrease labor market gender gaps. As remote working arrangements become more accepted and commonplace and children return to schools and daycares, women (and men) will benefit from this normalization of flexible and teleworking that aligns with their childcare responsibilities.
CALIFORNIA PROPOSITION 16:
On November 3, 2020, California voters will cast ballots on Proposition 16, a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. Proposition 16 would repeal Proposition 209, which became part of the California Constitution in 1996. Proposition 209 banned affirmative action involving race-based or sex-based preferences. Repealing Proposition 209 by way of Proposition 16 would remove California’s ban on affirmative action; the United States Supreme Court and federal law would then govern and define the parameters of affirmative action. Proponents of Proposition 16 argue that affirmative action is the way to tackle race and gender inequalities (amongst others) that are illuminated by the current pandemic, economic recession and deep-seated systemic and institutional discrimination.
INTERNATIONAL EQUAL PAY DAY AND EQUAL PAY DAY IN THE UNITED STATES:
September 18, 2020 marks the first International Equal Pay Day to highlight and celebrate the longstanding efforts to achieve equal pay for work of equal value. In the United States, Equal Pay Day (which differs each year depending on the then current gender pay gap percentage) symbolizes how far into the year the average women must work in order to earn the same pay their male counterparts earned in the previous year. Bringing attention to the ongoing gender pay disparity by way of national and international days of recognition is crucial to driving wage gap progress and change. Economists at Northwestern University stated that one of the final barriers to breaking down the gender wage gap is to offer greater flexibility in professional, high-paying jobs.
HOPE FOR A FUTURE WITH EQUAL PAY AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY:
There remains much work to be done regarding gender pay gap equality, but if any good can be found in the midst of this pandemic, it is the growing acceptance of telecommuting and greater flexibility for professionals with children. Women have always been disproportionately disadvantaged in the workforce by having to bear the brunt of childcare responsibilities; one can only hope that a post-Coronavirus economy offers women equal possibilities to be working professionals (with equal compensation to their male counterparts) and the flexibility for a balanced family life.
For women who have been terminated, suffered reduced hours, or a pay decrease as a result of the pandemic, in contrast to similarly-positioned male colleagues, it is important that you speak to a California employment law attorney who has successfully navigated wage gap claims.
If you feel you are a victim of gender pay disparity, we want to talk to you. Contact us online or call 310-205-2020 to schedule a consultation with one of the experienced employment attorneys at the Law Offices of Lauren Abrams.