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Women lose ground on jobs in 2020

Posted on January 14, 2021
Chart depicting with a red line a downward trend on a blue background

The jobs numbers for December were anticipated to be a slight gain, but instead, according to CNN, the economy lost 140,000 jobs. And all of these losses were felt by women. Yes, men lost jobs, but they gained more than they lost in December, women just lost. And it was primarily Black and Latina women.

Women began the year on nearly equal footing (just a hair over actually), holding 50.03% of the jobs in the country. Then the pandemic hit and so many jobs for men and women were lost. Yes, there were many gains, especially over the summer, but by the end of 2020, women lost a net 860K jobs, pushing us back down below that 50% mark.

The losses are attributed to the industries in which women tend to work: education, hospitality, and retail – all of which have been particularly hard hit. But when is this going to stop? When are we, as educators, as parents, as mentors, as a society, going to support women in working toward and obtaining sustainable and profitable careers?

The answer must be NOW!

We need to lift women up through education, mentorship, networking, etc. to provide these pathways. As a society, we must look at these industries that tend not to pay well, offer few to no benefits, and make changes to allow for growth and sustainability. As educators, we need to help girls and young women see their potential and push them to seek out careers that are both rewarding personally and professionally.

The setbacks with this kind of job loss will have a lifetime impact for these 860K women. This doesn’t just mean less money in their pockets today, it has a deeper and longer lasting impact with no capacity to build savings or contribute to retirement or even worse, having to cash out money in a retirement account with hefty penalties.

There are three key pillars we need to strive to build for women:

Financial Literacy

We need to teach young people, but especially young women about financial literacy and how to build a sustainable future.


From the time little girls first start talking about their weddings, we need to encourage them to think about their futures, to build them up, so they feel confident to seek careers across multiple industries, including STEM, business, etc. instead of letting them continually navigate toward careers in less stable and sustainable industries. We need to open doors for young girls and young women, especially young girls and young women of color.

Promote Sustainability

It is not just up to our politicians to make change, collectively we need to ask for it and insist upon it. Careers in hospitality, education, and retail have been dominated by women, especially Black and Brown women, with lower pay and fewer, or no, benefits. This needs to change. These industries need to pay a fair wage and provide benefits, so all of their workers can benefit, have clear career growth, and can provide for themselves and their families now and in retirement.

Change does not happen overnight, nor does it change when those in power strive to keep the status quo. The time for change is NOW. The time for change rests in my hands and in YOUR hands.


Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Dean, Graduate College
Assistant Clinical Professor & Dept. Head, Goodwin College
Drexel University

Posted in professional-development-career-tips