PORTLAND, Ore. — More than 865,000 women left the workforce between August and September, according to a National Women's Law Center analysis. That number is four times more than the 216,000 men who left during the same timeframe.
For some families, like the Davenport family in Longview, it simply made more financial sense for the wife to leave their job than the husband.
"It was just really a sit-down and a run of the numbers," said Rae Davenport. "And what things would look like is really how the decision came to be. And it made sense. He made quite a bit more than I did."
That's how Davenport ended up leaving her job as a children's after-school program manager to stay at home all day with her daughter. When coronavirus hit, she was cut to part-time hours, so she left her job to focus on helping her daughter with virtual learning.
"It's hard," Davenport said. "You know, I spent five years in the job that I was in. I loved it. I had planned on retiring with that job."
Davenport was one of 200 people who shared their story when we posted the headline on Facebook.
Vicki Huber was another, writing: "I'm sure I'm not the only mother who has chosen to place college education on hold due to helping their children with distance learning. This will be felt for years."
Or Trudi, who wrote: "I left a great job, my dream job actually, to work with my kids through online schooling. Hardest decision I've ever made."
Experts say women are dropping out of the workforce due to a combination of factors, including:
- Care for children at home during online school
- Burnout juggling work, housework and kids at home
- Negative feeling about job performance under so much pressure
- Partner makes more money and they keep working
Amy Jermain runs Xxcelerate, a Portland non-profit for women entrepreneurs, matching them with mentors, funding and education. She said 60% of her clients report feeling real distress right now.
"The loss of business, business closures coupled with no bandwidth, anxiety, depression, elder care, and the pressure on your own mental health wellbeing, trying to get through an unprecedented pandemic," Jermain said. "Women are really bearing this brunt."
Mothers are three times more likely than fathers to be responsible for a majority of housework and childcare during COVID-19, according to data from Lean In and McKinsey & Company’s annual Women in the Workplace report.
Minority women are seeing even higher rates of unemployment and leaving the workforce.
But there are also households like Ashley Claiborne's in Roseburg. Ashley was the one to stay working. Her husband quit his job to be home with their two girls.
"It does make me feel a little guilty. Like I'm kind of running off and getting to take a break from all that. And he's essentially stuck there," Claiborne said.
But Claiborne also said that the fact that she was able to stay at her job while her husband stays at home to care for the children shows how much society has changed.
"It does feel empowering to know that 100 years ago it wouldn't really have been an option for me to be the one to be doing this and bringing home the bacon, so to speak," she said. "I am proud that I've put in all these years for a career that I'm getting to continue, and show my daughters that you can get through anything, you can be self-sufficient. It's just been a great example to them of a family balance. You can do what's best for your family and it doesn't always have to look like someone else's family."
The bright spot that could come out of this? People are realizing what truly makes them happy and that could lead to a career change. It's something Jermain thinks could change things for the better:
"I do believe that women are questioning themselves and finding new and creative ways, like I said, women are always very resilient and will find new, innovative ways, to kind of survive," Jermain said.