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During the "Great Resignation," women are changing jobs like never before

Millions quit their jobs due to pandemic burnout
Millions quit their jobs due to pandemic burnout 02:06

The "Great Resignation" is sparking upheaval in the job market as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, and no group has been impacted more than women. New LinkedIn data finds that the number of job transitions for women surged in 2021. 

Job transitions — which can mean any type of job change, from dropping out of the workforce altogether to finding a better-paying job — for women have jumped 54% compared with a year ago, a record. Meanwhile, men's career transitions have increased about 46%, according to data across LinkedIn's network.

A year and a half into the pandemic, women in the workplace are increasingly assessing their career goals against a number of benchmarks, including job flexibility, salary and whether a workplace has a vaccine mandate. Notably, about 4 in 10 women say they are experiencing burnout, while one-third say their income isn't enough to pay for their family expenses, LinkedIn found in a survey of more than 2,000 workers. 

But LinkedIn chief economist Karin Kimbrough also points to signs of resilience among working women, with more striking out on their own to start a business during the health crisis. And companies are again ramping up the hiring of women after the pandemic upended the job market. In early 2020, jobs that tend to be dominated by women, such as retail and other service jobs, cut workers aggressively amid stay-at-home orders that greatly impacted service businesses, she noted.

While the pandemic has caused both men and women to reassess how they spend their time, Kimbrough said women have had multiple factors to consider, including childcare and their income.

"Women had to take into the calculus a lot of factors, such as 'Is the wage that I'm being paid and the sacrifice in time worth it?' The calculus changed, and it wasn't as worth it," she said.

"Half my workday on a bus"

Among the ranks of women who reevaluated their careers during the pandemic is Elizabeth Morgan. When the pandemic began, the 26-year-old worked as a recruiter for Google, a job that involved commuting five hours a day to the company's corporate campus. 

"I was literally spending half of my workday on a bus," she recounted. "And I was exhausted."

When the pandemic hit, she switched to remote work, cutting out the lengthy commute. Morgan used her additional free time to establish a side gig making earrings. She also started an Etsy shop called LivelyLizCreations, where she sells her whimsical and hypoallergenic jewelry creations. 

Black women and Americans without college degrees left behind in economic recovery 06:22

But there were still other career changes in store for Morgan. She eventually took a new job at a smaller company to work in social media, as well as a small pay cut, after realizing that Google's policies "made it challenging for me to feel creative." She also relocated from the San Francisco area to Denver to be closer to family. In her view, the pandemic gave her the chance to reconsider her goals and make changes to her career.

Morgan's not alone in switching gears. About 10% of Americans have quit their jobs to pursue their passions during the pandemic, according to a new study from Northwestern Mutual and OnePoll. But women are more likely to consider departing from their career path to find something they're more passionate about, the study found, with 50% of women willing to explore such a move versus 44% of men. 

Cost of daycare

While some women are driven to change their careers to find new opportunities, others are stymied by health concerns, the cost of daycare or a lack of response from employers. 

Crystal Burdge, 37, said she left the workforce at the start of the pandemic when her daughter was born. But when considering returning to her job as a nursing assistant, she looked into daycare and decided that going back was no longer financially an option for her family. 

"It was $1,200 a month," Burdge said. "A mortgage on a house can be $1,200." 

Instead, she's planning to open her own business to clean homes, while her fiancé may also start a business in early 2022. Both she and her partner have chosen not get vaccinated against COVID-19 out of concern with potential side effects, Burdge said. While their decision may impact their ability to work for employers with vaccine mandates, creating their own businesses would give them the flexibility to trade off watching their baby rather than putting her in daycare, she said.

Other women say they want to get back into the workforce but aren't getting any bites from employers. Frances Pitts, 34, said she stopped working in customer service during the pandemic to focus on caring for her five children. Now that she's ready to get back to work, she's been applying for jobs but getting no responses. 

"I've always been a working, helpful woman, as I like to see myself," Pitts of Phoenix, Arizona, said. "I keep hearing there are a lot of job opportunities, but when I go out, I don't get a response back." She added, "It's very, very frustrating."

Pitts noted that she's not vaccinated out of personal choice, but added, "That shouldn't discriminate against me from getting a job."

A "smart thing" for business

Some employers are actively recruiting women to diversify their ranks, such as United Airlines, whose Aviate flight school earlier this year said it wanted half its students to be women or people of color. White men have long dominated the flight deck, with women comprising less than 6% of all pilots and flight engineers, and people of color making up less than 10% of the fields. 

"It's a smart thing for the business. We are hiring over 10,00 pilots in the next 10 years — we need more people to be trained," said Jessica Kimbrough (no relation to Karin Kimbrough), the chief diversity equity and inclusion officer at United Airlines. "One demographic group won't help us meet that need."

She added, "We want people to get the warm and fuzzies by seeing people like them in the flight deck."

Some women may also be looking for better pay and career opportunities at the moment, experts said. In the first year of the pandemic, some workers were fearful of making a change due to the recession and other economic uncertainties. At the same time, expanded pandemic unemployment benefits also gave some workers a financial cushion to make choices about their careers, said Kimbrough of LinkedIn. 

Women turn to gig economy for job options during pandemic 06:17

United said it recently had 20,000 applicants for 2,000 open flight attendant positions. "It's a great mid-career move to get into the aviation industry," United's Kimbrough said. "You may be coming from a restaurant career or retail" and looking for a new career path. 

The median salary for a flight attendant is more than $59,000, according to government data. By comparison, restaurant waitstaff earn median annual wages of $24,000. 

"We know almost one-third of women who are working tell us that their jobs don't cover their families' living expenses," Kimbrough of LinkedIn said. "That is the No. 1 driver of why people are thinking of changing jobs."

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