More than 4.5 million fewer women are working now than at the start of the pandemic, setting women’s participation rate in the workforce back more than 30 years. A combination of layoffs, particularly in female-dominated fields hit hard by COVID like tourism and hospitality, and a lack of child care resulting from school and daycare closures are to blame. But a “return to normal” won’t by itself repair the economic damage to women and the goal of gender equity in the workplace that’s resulted.
The solution, experts say, instead must involve systemic changes on the part of employers and the federal government, as well as some smart strategizing from women themselves (when their circumstances allow it) to get them back to work and to strengthen their long-term financial security. Here are 15 steps experts recommend that individuals, companies and the country take now.