Research shows that in Utah, several more women left the workforce during the pandemic than men.
The data comes from the Utah Women & Leadership Project. The overall study was called The Impact of COVID-19 on Women and Work and consisted of three parts. The first two studies dealt with statistical changes with women’s mental health and career advancement challenges, and the most recent study focused on childcare and homeschooling.
Susan Madsen, founder of UWLP and professor of leadership at Utah State University, said the sample for the extensive survey consisted of over 3,500 women. Of those, 1,300 answered questions pertaining to women with children at home.
Madsen said ULWP started following national research in 2020, when data showed that the number of women leaving the workforce was four times more than men.
“By June, there was a lot of evidence that women were leaving the workforce in droves. Many more than men were,” Madsen said.
Some women were let go, but some felt like they had to leave their jobs to take care of their children, Madsen said. When schools closed down and kids had to do schoolwork from home, someone had to be at home with them.
Another reason for women leaving was pressure from coworkers, Madsen said. Research showed that working mothers were worried about being judged on their ability to balance work and home life.
“Women have struggled with these things throughout all time, but even with more flexibility in the workplace, those with kids were more worried about being judged than those without,” Madsen said.
Staying home with kids had impacts on women’s mental health, especially single moms. The studies found that women reported feeling burned out, stressed and emotionally exhausted. Mothers with children ages 0-5 were reportedly the most stressed out about childcare.
One of the large concerns for women at home was income after losing or leaving work, but another was computers and internet.
The kids that were doing schoolwork from home, particularly high school students, were relying on computers, Madsen said, which forced mothers to stress more about internet access.
Madsen said these women leaving the workforce could have lasting effects on many industries that employ large numbers of women, like retail, food and hospitality. She said after working from home and experiencing a pandemic, some women might not go back.
“Even if they came back, the lack of steadiness and the lack of security that they have felt during this time has maybe given them reasons to think about switching careers,” Madsen said, “or not even working in case something like this happens again. That’s hard for these industries.”
Madsen said she was hopeful that the research will raise conversations about helping women and mothers in Utah regarding their mental health and lives at home and work.
The full third study on childcare and homeschooling can be viewed at https://tinyurl.com/739v7b8s.