Gender Disparities in the Pandemic:

Childcare & Eldercare

It’s hard to imagine that the pandemic has been with us for two years. Images that stood out in the early days, like evening claps of thanks for frontline workers, have receded into some vague time shift. What hasn’t, though, are the challenges of caring for elders or children or both while navigating shelter in place, quarantines, masking policies, and vaccination availability. 

Like our first community conversation, in which we discussed the pandemic’s impact on women’s mental health, the demands of caregiving have disproportionately affected women the most.

There are any number of articles online that document the impact the pandemic has had on women as the primary caregiver in their families. 

A few points stood out to me, in particular:

  • “The pandemic revealed just how fragile the home care system is, and how much it relies not only on the unpaid labor of loved ones but especially on women of color who toil away as home caregivers at low wages with little recognition.” Source 
  • “In September 2021, more than 300,000 women in the US left the workforce. More than 26,000 jobs were lost in September 2021 for women, while men gained 220,000 jobs. The labor participation rate in the US is still 1.7% lower than before the pandemic in February 2020, including nearly 1.6 million mothers with children under the age of 17 who dropped out of the work force and have not returned.” Source 
  • Many children had academic and social issues being at home, but “for kids with developmental challenges, the challenges got exacerbated by Covid”…Some children aren’t getting their therapy, some miss being in the classroom, and some parents decided to stop medications, or couldn’t get refills. Source 

But what resonates with me are also the personal stories I’ve witnessed over the past two years. I’ve witnessed the challenges women have faced in balancing careers and the declining health of parents or in taking care of children too young to get vaccinated. For instance, one of my colleagues was given the opportunity to lead a large nonprofit during the first year of the pandemic and stepped away from her role in order to care for her two young children after her spouse landed a dream job. In other instances, careers and family circumstances have been affected by the need to care for elderly parents. Sadly, none of these stories are unique. 

We have a stellar panel coming together on February 1 to discuss these issues in more depth. Collectively, they will reflect on how caregiving – specifically for young children, elderly parents, and children with special needs – during the pandemic has affected women. We will also weave in some policy discussions as appropriate to highlight what possible solutions and assistance we collectively can bring about.  

A few articles stood out to my team as we prepared for this discussion. They are listed below; a resource list of organizations will be included in the post-panel follow-up post.

Articles:

  1. AP News: Delta variant and worker shortage keep a lid on job growth 
  2. AP News: Exacerbated by pandemic, child care crisis hampers economy 
  3. New York Times: How Men Burn Out 
  4. New York Times: The Pandemic’s Toll on Children With Special Needs and Their Parents 
  5. New York Times: What if it never gets easier?
  6. NPR: Women Left Their Jobs To Be Caregivers. A Business Coalition Wants Companies To Help 
  7. San Jose Mercury News: COVID forced Bay Area families to make agonizing elder-care decisions. Is there a fix?
  8. Slate: The Agony of Parents With Kids Under 5
  9. The Guardian: ‘I don’t have a choice’: childcare cost preventing US women from returning to work

Adin Miller, Los Altos Community Foundation Executive Director
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