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Stay at home mother using laptop and holding her head in pain while her son is doing homework.

COVID-19 and Women in the Workforce

Sherisse Laud-Hammond, director, Penn Women’s Center

It is very difficult to juggle being a parent while working from home in the same space as your child, who is stressed out or frustrated with online learning, in addition to the social emotional piece with not being able to have playdates with friends.

Parents have also had to figure out childcare to support their children in their own home. Many people don’t think about how hard it is to work a full-time job and parenting through a pandemic. You have children with computer and Zoom connection issues—while in the middle of an important meeting. What if you are a parent who is a frontline worker or a single parent with no childcare? Thanks to GSWS [Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies] and Penn, many parent employees were offered a grant to subsidize these costs, but unfortunately, many other women have dropped out of the workforce or become unemployed. Women’s jobs are more vulnerable and women are leaving the job market with increased childcare burdens.

I have spoken to many parents who find it hard to grab a bite to eat, who many, many times skip lunch and don’t eat until the end of the day because of their own back-to-back Zoom meetings and childcare responsibilities. Graduate students have to shoulder writing dissertations without having a change of scenery when they hit writers’ block; other folks are also struggling to produce research in order to earn tenure.

There is also the health component. Reproductive health service appointments were canceled or delayed because of the pandemic. Women are also at greater risk of domestic violence.

Giving grace to other people and having grace for yourself is the most important tool through this pandemic.

A student signing up to be tested for COVID-19

Commemorating a Challenging Year

To mark one year since COVID-19 changed our lives, we honor the essential workers within our entire Penn Community for their selfless work and dedication. We also look to the future with hope and optimism for brighter days ahead.

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