10 Ways the Pandemic Is Hurting Women

A woman waits in line as food is distributed at the Ebenezer Seventh-day Adventist church on July 22, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

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A woman waits in line as food is distributed at the Ebenezer Seventh-day Adventist church on July 22, 2020 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
Spencer Platt / Staff / Getty Images News / Getty Images North America / Getty Images CC

Pandemic Fallout

It's hardly an overstatement to say that women's lives around the globe have been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to the obvious — balancing career, self-care, and family, as well as now homeschooling children — the pandemic has had other less obvious ramifications, such as domestic violence, health issues, and economic setbacks. Here are some of the top ways the pandemic is impacting women, based on data from the U.N., including a new report From Insight to Action: Gender Equality in the Wake of COVID-19.

Related: 15 Ways the Coronavirus Has Changed Americans' Daily Lives

Women Are Losing Their Livelihoods Faster

Women Are Losing Their Livelihoods Faster

Between February and April in the United States, the number of unemployed men increased from 3.55 million to 11 million. Women's unemployment by comparison (which was lower than men's before the pandemic) increased from 2.7 million in February to 11.5 million over the same time period, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

Related: Jobs That Make Social Distancing Difficult

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Women Are Concentrated in Some of the Hardest Hit Industries

The economic picture for women is made even bleaker because they're typically employed in more at-risk sectors of the economy. The hardest hit sectors include the accommodation and food service industry, where women account for 75.4 million workers across the globe or 54 percent of the workforce. Domestic service is another example: 72 percent of domestic workers (80 percent of whom are women) have lost their jobs directly as a result of the pandemic. "In most countries, women are over-represented in these sectors, often with a tenuous hold on their jobs," according to the gender equality report. 

Related: 15 Jobs That Are Most Vulnerable to a Recession

Woman with face mask at ultrasound examination during COVID-19

Reduced Access to Health Care

Both in the U.S. and abroad, the shift of funds to critical pandemic response activities hampers a women's access to sexual and reproductive health. "When healthcare systems are overburdened and resources are reallocated to respond to the pandemic, this can further disrupt health services unique to the well-being of women and girls," according to U.N. data about how COVID-19 impacts women's health. "This includes pre- and post-natal healthcare, access to quality sexual and reproductive health services, and life-saving care and support for survivors of gender-based violence."   

Related: How Will the Pandemic Affect Health Insurance Costs?

Increased Violence Against Women

Increased Violence Against Women

Reports of violence against women have increased worldwide as stay-at-home orders force women to shelter in place, often with their abusers. It's a situation that's resulting in tragic consequences. Globally about 243 million women and girls have been impacted by sexual or physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner during the past year. But new information reveals that the violence has intensified amid the COVID-19 pandemic. "Violent partners may use confinement to further exercise power and control. At the same time, women have less income, fewer opportunities for social contact, and limited access to services and community support, all of which give them fewer exit options," according to the gender equality report.

Related: 20 Ways a Relationship Can Hurt Your Mental Health

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Women With Disabilities Face Greater Threats

Women with disabilities are at particular risk amid the pandemic, experiencing 10 times more sexual violence than women without disabilities. The situation may be worse for those with disabilities because in many places caregivers or monitors are not as present as they were prior to the global health outbreak.

Increased Domestic Care Duties

Increased Domestic Care Duties

It's no secret that more people staying at home and sheltering in place, a reality that has tremendously increased the domestic workload for women and girls. This has created "time poverty" for many women. "Before COVID-19, women did nearly three times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men globally. As schools, nurseries and daycare facilities shut down, families — women in particular — began making radical changes in how they spend their time," the gender equality report said. Many women are juggling increased unpaid care work while also trying to manage full-time paid work (and doing so in crowded households to boot.) While men are also doing more amid this upended world, women continue to do the lion's share of the domestic labor. This fact has ripple effects on a woman's physical and mental health as well as the ability to engage in paid work.

Price-Drop Returns

The Burden Is Even Worse for Single Mothers

With no one to share their load, single mothers face even greater stress amid the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. They have no adult at home to share the care burden and are more likely to work in low-paid, vulnerable occupations.

Related: Helpful Resources for Single Parents Struggling Amid the Pandemic

Sacrificed Health
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Sacrificed Health

Beyond the declining mental and physical health associated with greater burdens at home, women are also risking their health on the front lines of this pandemic. Across the globe, women account for a staggering 70 percent of the health and social care workforce. They are nurses, midwives, and community health workers dealing first-hand with this crisis. It's a reality that means women are disproportionately having to make a choice between protecting their health and the health of their families or continued economic security. "This exposure raises their risk of infection," states the gender equality report. "Recent data from Germany, Italy, Spain and the United States show confirmed COVID-19 cases among female health workers are two to three times higher than those observed among their male counterparts."

Related: Are You Required to Put Yourself in Harm's Way? Know Your Rights When Returning to Work

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Greater Rates of Covid-19 in Impoverished Communities

In communities around the country and the world already struggling with institutionalized poverty and other types of discrimination, women have higher rates of COVID-19 transmission and higher fatality rates. Such differences in risks of infection and death can be tied to pre-pandemic economic and social challenges including inequalities in living conditions (such as poor quality and overcrowded housing), as well as less access to health care and a greater occurrence of pre-existing health conditions.

Related: Where to Donate for Racial Justice in Your State

A police car passes homeless people on Skid Row after the new restrictions went into effect as the coronavirus pandemic spreads on March 20, 2020 in Los Angeles, California
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Increased Poverty Among Women

The pandemic is expected to deepen the poverty gap between women and men around the globe. Worldwide, about 60 million women ages 25 to 34 will get by on less than $2 per day by 2021, as compared to 54 million men. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
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Women May Be the Solution

For all of the bad news in the gender equality report, it does offer a bit of hope as well. In countries where women are at the helm, the number of confirmed deaths from COVID-19 is about six times lower. This is due in part to these leaders' faster response to the pandemic and their decision to place a greater emphasis on social and environmental well-being over time. "Too few women, however, are managing response and recovery efforts," says the report. "Social and economic policies and programs to confront the fallout of this crisis must be inclusive and transformative, addressing women's leadership and labor, both outside and within the home."

Related: Pandemic Relief Resources You Need to Know About Right Now