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Pandemic spurs decline in women hired into leadership roles, undoing years of progress

Equal Pay Day highlights gender gap
Equal Pay Day: Confronting the gap in men and women's earnings 06:40

Companies have promoted fewer women into leadership roles over the past year, erasing years of gains for female professionals — and reflecting yet another adverse consequence of the pandemic on working women. 

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced more than 2 million women out of the workforce, has also led to a remarkable decline in women being hired into leadership roles over the past 12 months, according to data from professional networking site LinkedIn.

Women in struggling industries including recreation and travel, the retail sector, education and professional services, have earned fewer senior management spots during the pandemic, according to LinkedIn's research. 

Outlying industries, including health care and manufacturing, bucked the trend and made progress in hiring women into senior-level positions during the pandemic.

But in the hard-hit recreation and travel industry, which suffered job losses across the board, 33.94% of women were hired in senior management roles in 2020, compared to 34.97% one year earlier. 

The retail industry also backtracked on adding women to leadership roles by nearly one percentage point, according to the LinkedIn data. The education, corporate services, nonprofit, media and communications, and consumer goods fields also reversed course on hiring women into leadership roles.

Report: Women earned just 81 cents for every dollar men made in 2020 05:38

And there's even more grim news for women in the workplace. 

A second new report on gender pay equity found that the pandemic has erased years of progress in working to achieve parity among men and women. 

Indeed, yet another generation of women will have to wait for gender parity, the World Economic Forum found. It will now take 135 years to close the gender gap at current rates, up from an estimated 99 years before the pandemic. 

Women were more frequently employed in sectors hardest hit by lockdowns and other coronavirus restrictions, and many also found themselves voluntarily withdrawing from the workforce to take care of children when they suddenly lacked access to in-person schooling and daycare alternatives. 

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