Thirty years ago, I founded Working Wardrobes to help women overcome challenges and find meaningful employment.  Our work has evolved to help all at-risk populations find jobs.  Today, we have come full circle – our founding mission of helping women has never been more critical to the survival of our community, and to the financial and emotional health and well-being of the people who live here.

For millions of women here in Southern California, COVID-19 has delivered a unique and catastrophic one-two-three punch.

Hospitality, retail, and health care – the primary female job sectors – were impacted earliest and hardest by the pandemic. The second wave knocked out many government jobs, yet another sector in which women outpace men.  The final blow for women came with the closing of childcare centers and shifts to remote schooling which have saddled working mothers with overwhelming household responsibilities.

Mothers are more than three times as likely as fathers to be responsible for most of the housework and caregiving and are 1.5 times more likely than fathers to spend an extra three or more hours per day on housework and childcare – equivalent to 20 hours per week.

The pandemic’s triple punch not only pushed women out of jobs they currently held, it is now preventing many from seeking new employment. In the U.S., four times as many women as men dropped out of the labor force in September 2020 – roughly 865,000 women compared with 216,000 men.

We live in one of the most expensive areas in the country where dual incomes are imperative for survival.  And, experts say full economic recovery from COVID is likely years away!  In the meantime, threats of eviction, foreclosures, hunger and associated mental health issues due to job loss and financial stressors are very real.  

Put simply, it’s harder for jobless women here than in nearly any other state in the country.

There are four action-oriented strategies that are required to help women find jobs in Southern California today:

  1. Jobs must be mapped to industries that are in recovery.
  2. Skills must be retooled to help women find jobs in the industries in recovery.
  3. Women must receive the workforce readiness resources they need for long term career success.
  4. Women must earn living wages to live safely, securely and with dignity. 

Studies show that there are long term financial implications when layoffs and furloughs spike, such as they did during COVID. The pandemic has stolen dedicated, experienced, and educated women from jobs in droves. And it has set us back from the generations-long progress women have made in the workforce.

This is unacceptable for our community, for our country, and for women.  We have taken a huge step backwards and now we must all do the work that’s required to get women back to work

Jerri Rosen, Founder and CEO of Working Wardrobes.

Learn more about the problem of women’s unemployment in Southern California.

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