When Gender Meets Race, Women of Color Lose Most: Report

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm May 12, 2020

Studies have shown that the gender gap is real across many sectors, and now with the economy wounded and unemployment at its highest rates since the Great Depression, Forbes analyzed how deeply the COVID-19 financial crash will hurt women of color, in an article published May 12. “The disproportionate job losses among women, especially women of color, will not mean hardship for families such as hunger right now, but that pain will persist for a long time, even if jobs return in the near future,” wrote senior contributor Christian Weller

Forbes first noted how the unemployment rate has discriminated over the last two months, with women losing 13.4 million jobs, compared with 11.9 million jobs lost for men. And when they zoomed in on race, it found that: 

“Black, Asian and Latina women all saw sharper losses in their employment-to-population ratios from February to April 2020 than was the case for white women. The decline was largest for Latina women with 13.6 percent, followed by a decline of 11.0 percentage points for Black women and 10.3 percentage points for Asian women. In comparison, White women saw their employed share fall by 9.6 percentage points at the same time. Among all groups of women, the employed share within their respect population groups had fallen to less than 50% as a result of these losses. Latina women ended up with the lowest employment-to-population ratio with 42.6% in April 2020.”

These disparities, according to Forbes, can be traced back to workplace segregation, as many women of color are employed in industries that temporarily closed for social distancing—such as hospitality, retail, and restaurants—and the ones who are largely considered essential workers, such as grocery attendants and home care aides, earn low wages.

“But due to widespread discrimination and other structural obstacles such as occupational steering, women of color often get paid very little, have few benefits such as health insurance on their jobs and experience a lot of income volatility. As a result, they tend to have few savings set aside to protect against an emergency such as a layoff. Many women of color now face sharp dangers to their livelihoods in some industries as jobs mount, while they have to choose between protecting their own health or their families’ financial well-being in others. Either way, this pandemic exposes the disproportionate financial and physical risks that women of color face because they are often shut out from better, more secure and safer jobs due to discrimination.” 

While married Black and White women’s unemployment rates nearly matched at 12.9 and 12.5 percent, respectively, Latinx women’s are almost double because:

“Latina women had higher unemployment rates than white women before the crisis started. The recession further exacerbated these differences. The sharp increase in Latinas’ unemployment rate then shows the often described phenomenon of “last hired, first fired”, whereby people of color tend to experience longer unemployment spells—starting earlier and lasting longer—than is the case for Whites during a recession. As a result, more widespread and longer-lasting unemployment for Latinas and other women of color could decimate whatever little savings they have and put them in a financially fragile situation for a long time.”

As the national economy limps along, Weller wrote that policymakers should use detailed, more nuanced data to create better interventions, such as family paid leave, access to quality healthcare and health insurance, and higher earnings. To read the complete article, visit Forbes here.