COVID-19 Forces Women to Consider Leaving the Workforce


According to a study by LeanIn and consulting firm McKinsey & Company, one in four women in corporate America are either downshifting their careers or leaving the workplace entirely. This seems to be a fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, which has exposed the ugly nature of the double burden women carry and threatens to unravel the gains women have made in the workplace.

The study revealed that senior-level women cited “burnout” as a reason for their move from the workplace. These women were more likely to be mothers. Researchers suggest that mothers are three times more likely to take on the bulk of home and child-care duties during the pandemic. As remote work became the new normal, the “double shift” took on elephantine proportions that many women found difficult to manage. Mothers were also more likely to worry about being judged for failing to give all their attention to their paid work whilst they took on homeschooling, housework, and child care in the home.

The report also revealed that Black women don’t feel as supported in their work environments as Caucasian women. This comes as a surprise since much of the private sector revisited its diversity and inclusion practices in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement. Only one-fourth of Black women said that their manager checked in with them after the racial violence and protests. Another finding from the report showed that Black women were two times as likely as non-Black women to report that losing a loved one to COVID-19 was one of their biggest challenges last year. This data exposes how the burden of the double shift also intersects with race, disparate health outcomes, and a non-supportive work environment.

The study paints a dismal portrait of corporate America, but it will also serve as a wake-up call. Women employees will see their stories reflected in the data and will be empowered to demand better work conditions. It will force employers to look at their talent pool and find ways in which to help women and women of color achieve their potential in the workplace.