The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted women in the workforce who are managing careers along with new realities at home.

Following the shut-down of many schools and childcare centers across the country, families with infants and school-aged children were sent scrambling to provide child care and oversee in-home classroom learning — a task that often falls upon mothers who are simultaneously balancing job demands as well.  With the start of the 2020 school year requiring the vast majority of students to attend school virtually, homeschooling challenges, along with the stress from working from home, has resulted in a record number of mothers leaving the workforce to care for their children. According to a report published in collaboration with The Century Foundation and the Center for American Progress, it is estimated that in September, women left the workforce four times more frequently than men—approximately 865,000 women compared to 216,000 men. 

This significant drop of females in the workplace due to COVID-19 has the strong potential to set off a backslide in gender equality, particularly with respect to the gender pay gap. At a time when women were starting to close that gap, the loss of income for working mothers—as well as the loss of female role models in the workplace—could be staggering.    

According to Dr. Laura Sherbin, an economist and managing director of Culture@Work, a division of Working Mother Media, has estimated that the impact of the stay-at-home/working-mom dynamic resulting from this pandemic will cost the U.S. economy an estimated $341 billion.

While this moment in history is unprecedented, it is difficult to predict what the future will bring. As the spread of the virus is harnessed and the world slowly makes its way back to “normal,” it will be more important than ever to keep gender pay issues at the forefront in order to ensure a level playing field with equality in pay and employment for women in the workplace.