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Study: COVID-19 Crisis Could Set Working Women Back Half A Decade

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A new study published this week found that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has had an outsized impact on working women.

Working Women
A new study published this week found that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has had an outsized impact on working women. (CBSLA)

According to the Women in the Workplace study, which surveyed 40,000 employees, a number of working women felt overwhelmed because they were having to take on additional household responsibilities on top of their work responsibilities.

It's a feeling Carrie Deguire, a single mother of two, knows well.

"I feel like when I'm doing work, I'm neglecting the kids," she said. "And I feel like when I'm taking care of the kids and helping them with their schoolwork, then I'm neglecting my job."

The study found that the seemingly never-ending cycle of trying to juggle work, remote learning and the pressures of living in the midst of a pandemic was causing mothers, in particular, to feel overwhelmed.

"I have had to go back in my duties," Deguire said. "At work, I had some leadership responsibilities that I had to give up for this and, honestly, some days there's tears."

And Deguire is not the only working mom who has chosen to take a step back professionally.

According to the study, one in four women surveyed were contemplating downshifting their jobs or leaving the workforce all together — with mothers, seniors and Black women reporting higher levels of burnout.

"What we're hearing from mothers is that they're taking on a disproportionate amount of work at home in terms of childcare and household duties," Jess Huang, co-author of the study, said. "For senior women, what we're hearing is that they're really burnt out, they're exhausted.

"And from Black women, we've always known that they've had a harder time in the workplace and they've faced bias and they've faced more challenges," Huang said. "And now we're hearing that they're facing extra challenges because they are 2.5 times more likely to have experienced death of a loved one due to the COVID-19 crisis."

Huang said the research found that mothers were more than three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for housework.

"Seventy percent of fathers in heterosexual couples, dual-career couples, think that they're doing equal amounts of work as their partners," she said. "Only 44% of mothers feel the same, so there's clearly a discrepancy there."

And while the study focused on the impacts of the pandemic on working women, it offered ways employers can better support their employees for the duration of the crisis.

"Now that they know which challenges are causing women to feel like they need to step out or take a step back from their careers, companies can actually address it," Huang said.

Conducted by McKinsey and Company and the Lean In Foundation, headed by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, the study found that more women are leaving the workforce than men for the first time in six years.

According to the study's authors, that could set women back half a decade — with far fewer women in leadership roles and far fewer women on track to be future leaders.

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