The pandemic drove women out of the workforce — here's how your hospital can bring them back

The responsibilities of child care fell directly onto the shoulders of many women during the COVID-19 pandemic, causing some to flock from the workforce. To bring women back inside hospital walls, hospital leaders should understand what is keeping them out.

The COVID-19 pandemic was disastrous for gender equity efforts. In the U.S., women make up 43 percent of the workforce, yet accounted for 56 percent of COVID-19-related job losses, according to a McKinsey Global report cited by The New York Times.

Job recovery for women in the healthcare sector has been slower than for male counterparts. To return to pre-pandemic levels, about 36,000 healthcare jobs for men need to come back, compared to 530,000 for women, according to a Jan. 6 report by consulting firm Altarum.

A big contributing factor is that child care duties amid the pandemic, as schools and day cares shuttered, often meant the mothers had to take over child care duties. The report said that lack of affordable child care slowed job recovery, and authors recommended policymakers make child care more affordable.

Another study at Salt Lake City-based University of Utah Health found that 66 percent of employees who had children said they did not have child care fully available to them. Twenty-one percent of respondents said they considered leaving the workforce, while 30 percent considered reducing their hours.

To bring women back into the workforce, McDonald's recently unveiled plans to add emergency child care and elder care to its benefits, CNN reported.

Feminine hygiene company Thinx offers an $800-per-month child care stipend for employees who have children under 5 years old.

Many parents (87 percent) find assistance paying for child care or educational services the most useful to them, a 2020 survey by the Society for Human Resources Management found. Yet, only 8 percent of companies provide these resources.

"The findings suggest that many of the options that most employees would find helpful are the least commonly provided by organizations," a spokesperson for the study told Harvard Business Review. 

Many hospitals would say that supporting women is a top priority. Yet, unless some of the root causes of what's keeping women from advancing in their careers are addressed, women may continue to be left out.

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