When the pandemic hit, forward motion within the hospitality industry came to an abrupt standstill; overwhelmed and overworked healthcare workers faced long hours and grueling shifts, and America’s educators shifted to a remote learning environment, shutting down campus operations. In December 2020, CNN reported that women make up 77% of the workers in America’s hospitals and around 74% of the employees in K-12 schools. These three industries - hospitality, healthcare, and education - are among the most heavily impacted by COVID-19, with widespread layoffs, furloughs, and major shifts in the day-to-day. While different in professional nature, these industries have one core factor in common: the majority of workforce members are women.
Parents, women specifically, disproportionately shouldered the burden of unpaid work at home, suddenly needing to be school teachers, stay-at-home caregivers, and cooks, doing their best to create some form of normalcy for their kids while doing the best to maintain their own jobs and personal happiness. With the increase in day-to-day home responsibilities, it has become more difficult for women to find long-term work that accommodates the need for a flexible lifestyle.
Where Have All the Women Gone?
Priorities and obligations for women outside of the work environment are typically very different than those of men, and it’s essential for businesses to acknowledge this and be willing to provide a certain degree of flexibility and understanding that doesn’t make quitting the only viable option. The Wall Street Journal notes that between February 2020 and March 2021, nearly 1.1 million women of prime working-age—between the ages of 25 and 54—dropped out of the labor force, compared with 830,000 men in that age group, according to the Labor Department. The National Women’s Law Center also reports that female workforce participation has already dropped to 57%, its lowest level since 1988, and without significant action, the female labor force could face its steepest sustained decline since World War II.
Those who have continued working have faced a different but equally exhausting set of challenges. In an effort to balance work and home life, women are working longer hours to keep up with their workloads which have put them on the fast track to burnout, on top of everything else they may have going on at home. For these workers who also have kids, finding childcare became tremendously difficult at the beginning of the pandemic with daycare center layoffs (another traditionally female-dominated industry), and women were forced to weave “daily entertainment” into an already demanding daily schedule. Female business owners have also felt the burn from working long hours to keep their businesses afloat -- a March 2021 article from BizWomen reports that almost 60% of women say it will take six months or longer for their businesses to return to pre-pandemic levels.
The New York Times recently published an eye-opening piece about the emotional burden that women carry in the home. While stay-at-home dads have become more common and the concept of “traditional gender roles” has become less black and white, women continue to experience a much heavier mental burden than their male counterparts. A study by the American Sociological Review broke down this mental load -- referred to as “cognitive labor” -- into four parts: anticipate, identify, decide and monitor. The study included conversations with 35 couples and concluded that the two areas of the process where women bore the brunt of the pressure were “anticipate” and “monitor.” Women are much more inclined to begin a process and work through the follow-up to finalize plans or tie up loose ends. Men were found to be happy to support along the way but were much less frequently the ones to initiate the conversation. Pandemic home life exacerbated women’s physical and mental burdens, which, when combined with an inflexible work schedule, contributed to an increased rate of women leaving the workforce.
How Do We Support Working Women?
According to CNBC, as of early April, there are “still nearly 7.9 million fewer Americans counted as employed than in February 2020, while the labor force is down 3.9 million.” Recovery is underway, but there is still a ways to go.
The pandemic has highlighted the ways in which the American workplace, as we once knew it needs to change. The concept of “do what works for you” has become front and center with parents, women in particular, yearning for workplace flexibility, among other changes to balance personal and professional life. 50+ hour work weeks are no longer sustainable, and the hybrid office/home-work model that was initially intended to slowly re-integrate employees back into office life has become the new, preferred “normal.”
Workplace flexibility is one of the hottest topics to come out of the pandemic. Salesforce went so far as to say the “9-5 is dead” at the start of 2021. In March, global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas polled 201 human resources executives from companies ranging in size on the topic of workplace flexibility. Results showed that more than 84% of companies are offering some form of flexibility during the pandemic, 84% report that they will retain remote work options for employees, and 95% report that some or all elements of flexibility would continue post-pandemic.
The need for work/life flexibility has also empowered women to tap into their entrepreneurial spirits to become their own bosses, make their own hours, and take their employment into their own hands. Gusto and the National Association of Women Business owners recently polled nearly 1,200 female business owners and found that 5% of them started a new business during the pandemic -- approximately 47% of this group are minority women, and minority women were twice as likely to say they started a new business due to financial need. The disproportionate impact that the pandemic has had on women in various areas of the working world is clear and the need for flexibility is crucial to creating a more equitable, advantageous working world for women.
The Flexibility Factor: What are the benefits of a part-time job?
The gig economy has played a huge role in helping women return to the workforce with need-based employment opportunities that allow workers to plan their work schedules around their day-to-day home responsibilities. Through part-time work in the gig economy, women are empowered to explore opportunities that fit their skill sets as well as their schedules, satisfying the need for an increased work/life balance that has become so prevalent since the pandemic hit last year. At Jitjatjo, we’re focused on industries that are predominantly led by women, including hospitality, healthcare, and education. Gig work in these areas is abundant as the industry continues to rebound and there is an incredible amount of flexibility from the opportunities available, which further encourages a more equitable, sustainable industry for women.
Jitjatjo’s Flex program leverages its proprietary matching algorithm to arm women, or anyone looking, with opportunities that best match their needs, skill sets, and schedules to take control of their lives. Those seeking work can search terms like “part-time jobs near me” or “gigs near me” in applicable markets to take a look at the various opportunities available through Jitjatjo. Whether you’re someone looking for a few quick shifts a week for extra cash flow (funds are sent directly to workers’ bank accounts within hours of job completion) or someone who is looking for a more long term position, gig work is a great way to test the waters to see what works, what doesn’t and make any necessary adjustments. Our company mission of human betterment extends far beyond the workplace - we believe that every individual as a whole needs to have their personal and professional needs met in order to live a successfully balanced life.
Is Gig Work the Answer for You?
For those who have decided to leave the traditional 40+ hour work week behind, gig work is a great way to try something new, build a customized work schedule, and take control of your personal life. For women who are navigating the stress of employment and the challenges of finding a job that will work with their daily schedules, gig work offers the flexibility that is so desperately needed right now and empowers them to rejoin or expand their participation in the workforce in a way that makes the most sense for them. Years of research have shown that the Jitjatjo app does not show bias in gender roles and helps users from all walks of life build a work schedule that works around their day.
If you’re someone who has been out of work for an extended period of time, gig work is a fantastic way to dip your toes back into the workforce at your own pace - the on-demand shift model allows space for workers to evaluate what’s best for them based on numerous different factors. The mental health crisis that the pandemic has brought on is daunting and this style of work allows for a slow and steady workforce reintroduction for those who need it.
While gig work isn’t going to be the answer for everyone, it gives those with the need for flexibility just that, the opportunity to make their own schedules and regain control of their lives, in addition to having extra time to spend with families and friends. If anything, Flex offers an outstanding short-term solution to employment needs with the potential for gigs to turn into a long-term solution. To learn more about the program and to get started on your own Jitjatjo journey, click here.
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