The Great COVID She-cession

How moms can get back into the workplace, overcome “gap bias”, and get paid what they deserve
Mothers covid pandemic unemployment

If you’re reading this, chances are a) you’ve been laid off or forced to leave employment in the pandemic, b) know someone who has, c) that someone is a woman.

The coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent global economic shutdown has driven millions of people out of the workforce and into unemployment. Of those, it has been overwhelmingly women and minorities that have been disproportionately impacted. A “She-cession” if you will.

Why have women and mothers been so negatively impacted?

As the novel coronavirus began to cross borders and the pandemic began to place a chokehold on the world, the first course of action was to shut down businesses, schools, houses of worship, and any gathering points where spread could not be controlled.

So we were relegated to our homes. Work from home, study from home, worship from home. See your doctors from home order, your groceries from home. Do everything from home.

What happened was that we were cut off from our support systems, our networks, our villages, our communities. We were cut off from help.

How could we as women continue to work remotely while also simultaneously manage our children’s remote learning? How could we do client calls and meet deadlines when there was no daycare open for our babies?

We couldn’t. And so we were either fired or forced to leave.

This shouldn’t be the case – and we should certainly talk about what employers and the government could have/ could be/should be doing differently. But that doesn’t solve our problem now.

There are women that need to work. That want to work. But these women have children. Households to run. Mouths to feed. We should not be forced to choose. And we certainly should not be penalized for being pushed out of the workforce. So what do we do?

We do what women always do: overcome.

How to get back to work, overcome “gap bias”, and get paid what you deserve

  • OWN WHAT HAPPENED. Be honest and straightforward with employers and hiring managers. “I was laid off in the pandemic”. “I had to quit my job because my company would not allow for flexible/ remote work.” There is no shame. EVERYBODY knows we’re in a pandemic, and EVERYONE can empathize.
  • Now that you’ve gotten the “why” of your unemployment out of the way, focus on yourself. Your skills, your experience, what value you bring to the workplace. VERY IMPORTANT: Talk about what value you can bring to the employer as they navigate a post-covid world. How are you uniquely suited to help this company do business after the pandemic? This is how you can differentiate yourself from others and give hiring managers a clear picture of how and where you fit into the future of the company.
  • RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH. Study the company. You have to sell yourself, but its not just about you. You sell yourself by selling how YOU match the company’s vision, mission, and values. How YOU match the company’s goals for the future.
  • SHOW UP WITH A SOLUTION. Find areas where there are gaps in the company’s business/strategy, or where there are problems / potential for problems.
  • When negotiating salary, understand what the market rate salary is for this position. You should NOT be getting paid less because you “took a year off in the pandemic” (you did not!). If an employer is offering you a lower salary range, very nicely ask “Can I ask why the salary range is lower than the market rate for this position?” It’s on you to decide whether you want to move forward with the position at the lower rate but asking the question lets employers know that you know your worth, you know what the market rate salary is, and you are confident in your skills and fit for the position.
  • If you are returning to work but are being considered for a lower level position than you had pre-COVID – again, ask WHY. “Can I understand what the criteria is for me to have qualified for consideration for position x instead of position y that you’re offering me now?” IF YOU DON’T ASK YOU, YOU WON’T KNOW.
  • Be determined. Read the article on job hunting in a pandemic here.

Fighting insecurity and imposter syndrome

As we cross a year into the pandemic, most of us are wading (not so gracefully) through an ocean of pandemic fatigue. The “hard pants” have been relegated to the bottom of the closet, showers seem fewer and far between, and it’s easy to feel like a shell of our former selves. We’re in full on survival mode, going through our daily routines in an almost emotionless, robotic fashion. We begin to forget our own value, and start doubting our own capabilities. If you don’t have confidence in yourself, you can’t expect others to. If you don’t believe in your own skills, you can’t expect employers to.

REPEAT AFTER US: “I’m good at what I do, and I bring value to any company. My status as a mother is not a detriment, but a benefit to my profile. The fact I’ve been unemployed because of the pandemic does not make me any less qualified for a position. I should be treated and compensated in line with my peers.”

Say it, believe it, and don’t forget it. 


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