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Women and the Pandemic: Talking about the She-Cession

It's no big secret that hundreds of thousands of Americans are filing for unemployment benefits weekly and that a financial crisis is emerging. And looking more closely at the job loss numbers, one finds that the negative economic effects of the pandemic have not impacted everyone equally.

In fact, in the U.S., there's a "she-cession" at play. In other words, women have been hit harder economically than men. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, data reveals that of those who have lost their jobs, 5.8 million were women versus 5 million who were men. What's more, women are slower to gain jobs than their male counterparts (286,000 jobs of the 873,000 jobs added in August).

Why's that? For one, kids aren't returning to school but are being educated through remote learning. In turn, women are three times as likely than men not to be working because of childcare issues. When they are employed, their productivity has decreased due to juggling childcare duties with working from home.

Adding to that, the ranks of workers among the industries hardest hit by the pandemic—think leisure, travel, hospitality, and education—are disproportionately filled by women.

"The She-cession is real, but truly, it's just magnifying a situation that we've already had for far too long in our country," says Marie Thomasson, a wealth planner and founder of Modern Assets, an L.A.-based financial firm that serves women and their families.

It's not all gloom and doom. While there are forces out of our control, there are steps we can take in our personal lives to improve our financial well-being. Let's take a look:

Cut Back on Expenses

If your productivity has seen a slump, or you haven't been able to return to work, take a good look at your spending plan. Next, see where you can cut back. Leave no stone unturned. If you're feeling overwhelmed, where can you start? Thomasson recommends looking at your biggest expenses—like housing, car payments, and the grocery bill.

"Cut everything that can be cut," says Thomasson, who is a single mom to twin boys. "If it's not essential, cut it back. You might be able to squeak by and pay that car lease, but you aren't doing your 70-year-old self any favors right now."

Have Your Kids Help Around the House

Yes, you love your children to bits. But there's something to be said about teaching them to be self-sufficient, and help cook meals, do chores and mend clothing. Depending on how old they are and their personal capabilities, enlist their help with sundry tasks around the house. It'll create less stress for you, plus, it could free up your time so you can earn more.

"This is the time for kids to fend for themselves, understand how important their role is, and praise their ingenuity and attempts at responsibility," says Thomasson. If they're old enough to be left unattended for a stint of time, gradually give them more autonomy.

Explore New Ways to Make Money

If being tethered to a 9-to-5 isn't working for you right now, consider branching out and trying something new, recommends Thomasson. For instance, try your hand at coding classes. Not only will you learn a new skill set but continuing your education can extend your unemployment benefits.

The key is to start with something that doesn't require a ton of time, money, or equipment. Try a low-commitment endeavor, such as walking dogs, renting out your yard or storage space in your garage, or being a virtual assistant. As for income goals, challenge yourself to create income in the next month to cover a small treat for yourself, such as a subscription box or streaming service.

Look for Grants and Economic Relief Programs

If you fear getting evicted, having your utilities cut off, or not being able to put food on the table, look for resources to help get you through. For instance, many utility companies and credit card issuers are offering relief options to those who have been financially impacted by the pandemic. You might be able to enjoy reduced payments, for the time being, have your payments put on pause, or have late fees dropped.

There are also a number of grants for women who want to expand their skill set or start a new business. For example, The Mom Project has rolled out RISE, a scholarship program that is offering thousands of women the opportunity to receive a technical certification to help lessen the gender pay gap.

Lean on Your Tribe

Now is the time to lean on your support network of friends and family. If you are in a tough place financially, consider asking them if they know of any opportunities to make more income or if they know of financial resources in your community. Or, try marketing your services to your friends and family. For instance, if you love to cook and have time to prepare home-cooked meals, start promoting to those who could benefit from your services and want to support you.

To help offset the costs of childcare, consider creating a pandemic pod where you include a select number of people or families who have all been screened for coronavirus. Members of your pod could help shoulder the burden of kid-watching duties.

The truth remains: the long-term solution is regulation and legislation that provides services women need, such as abundant, quality childcare that doesn't cost one's entire paycheck, points out Thomasson. "Setting a strong foundation for women is something that we can't do individually, and public policy has one of the most important roles to play."

While there's only so much we can do that's in our power, it's important to take action in our corners of the world to enact a ripple effect of change, both personally and for society as a whole.

Jackie Lam

Jackie Lam is a personal finance writer whose work has appeared in Salon, Business Insider, and GOOD.