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More Than 2 Million Women Have Left Workforce During The Pandemic; But Employers Waking Up To Need For Daycare

CHICAGO (CBS) -- We are always Working for Chicago, identifying trends and sharing tips to help you get back on your feet.

This morning, CBS 2 is taking a look at the future of the working world, particularly for women. So many have left their jobs during the pandemic. President Joe Biden even called COVID-19's effect on women a "national emergency."

Morning Insider Lauren Victory takes us inside a mini-renaissance that may be on the horizon for working parents.

Meet Priya Taneja's sons; darling, but destructive. The adorable little monsters also like to make noise during mommy's Zoom meetings.

"He comes in running, 'Mama my finger is bleeding!' Taneja said.

His finger was fine.

The cuties causing chaos are now in pre-school, and watched by a nanny, but that wasn't possible during the first eight months of quarantine because of shutdowns.

Mom and kids would drive two hours to grandma and grandpa's house every week.

"I found myself on my Zoom calls for work, plugging in from my childhood bedroom, which was like bright lavender walls," Taneja said.

The Senior Vice President of Operations at DHR International talked about the toll quarantine took.

"It was … it was crazy. And then you know, not seeing my husband for weeks on end. It's kind of … it was tough," she said.

Juggling jobs, parenting, and other stress affects millions of us during the pandemic. Women in particular seem to not only be shouldering the burden, but also giving up their careers to manage it all.

"We've seen since the start of the pandemic, 2.1 million women leave the labor force. That means they are no longer even searching for jobs," said Andy Challenger, senior vice president at job placement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas.

That's 20% higher than men, according to Challenger, who said his firm continuously hears that difficulties with childcare are one of the main reasons women's exodus from the workforce.

"We know that women tend to make less than men, on average, and I think a lot of couples are making decisions based on the numbers," he said.

It's a cold reality, but Challenger said some businesses are warming up to the idea of including daycare and babysitting as part of compensation.

"Both men and women will appreciate that incredibly," he said.

Another possible benefit of the future: flexible working hours.

"Companies that are smart are going to take a pro-active approach here and start figuring out ways to entice women back into their organizations, make it as easy as possible," Challenger said.

Taneja held on and even got promoted through all this. She credits support from her family and understanding from colleagues.

"It was just a relief not to have to apologize for my kid busting in on my Zoom," she said.

The working mom's advice to women looking for jobs? Don't be afraid to ask potential employers for specific examples of how they support parents.

Challenger also suggests re-connecting to your network now as remote learning slowly phases out and competition for jobs ramps up.

CBS 2 is committing to Working For Chicago, connecting you every day with the information you or a loved one might need about the jobs market, and helping you remove roadblocks to getting back to work.

We'll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.

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