The pandemic-induced recession forced many women to drop out of the workforce, with research showing they were much more likely than men to give up jobs so they could take care of children when schools went online.
The consequences of these decisions may go beyond each individual, though.
“They could have large repercussions for the economy, the home, and society as a whole, says Andi Simon, a corporate anthropologist, founder of Simon Associates Management Consultants, and author of the recently released book Rethink: Smashing the Myths of Women in Business.
Some ramifications of the 2020 exodus from the workforce for women could include:
- A drop in consumer spending. When one spouse loses a job, whatever the reason might be, it means an immediate and sudden drop in income for that household. “The impact on household earnings will lead to reduced spending,” Simon says. “That will have ripple effects throughout the economy.”
- An impact on women’s careers and advancement. Eventually, many of these women will no doubt go back to work, but how well they will be able to just pick up their careers where they left off could be another matter, Simon says. “Will they have lost ground in the line for promotions to men who didn’t take any time away from work?” she asks. “Also, depending on how slow the recovery is, rejoining the workforce might not be that quick and easy.”
- A reduction in demand for family-related industries. When both spouses work outside the home, couples often need to make use of services that developed or grew because one adult – usually the woman – wasn’t around to take care of certain household duties. For households where a mother is now back in the home, that has changed. “They no longer need to pay someone for childcare services,” Simon says. “In addition, the need for house-cleaning services is likely to drop.”
- Changes to retail markets. A woman who stays home with the kids has different needs than a woman who commutes to an office each day, and those differences could be reflected in the world of retail, Simon says. Just as an example, there could be a drop in demand for makeup. Sales of business attire for women may plummet – or at least take a hit as more casual, comfortable clothes become more important wardrobe necessities. Restaurants could continue to struggle as people eat out less and cook at home more.
- Entrepreneurial urges could shift to home businesses. Some women could still keep their career mindsets and try to establish their own businesses run from their homes, Simons says. But she cautions that there are questions about just what those businesses might be since some potential areas – such as marketing, consulting, and business coaching – have seen a downshift in demand for their services. “That leaves you to wonder just how viable setting up a home business might be,” Simon says.
Despite all those concerns, some good can come out of this period as well for women who want a better life both personally and professionally, Simon says.
“If you’ve not been satisfied with your career and your life, this could be an opportunity to rethink and rewrite your personal story,” she says. “You need to imagine what you want to become, focus on how to make that possible, and then begin to take steps to make it happen.”
Andi Simon, Ph.D. (www.andisimon.com), author of Rethink: Smashing the Myths of Women in Business, is a corporate anthropologist and founder of Simon Associates Management Consultants (www.simonassociates.net). A trained practitioner in Blue Ocean Strategy®, Simon has conducted several hundred workshops and speeches on the topic as well as consulted with a wide range of clients across the globe. She also is the author of the award-winning book On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights. Simon has a successful podcast, On the Brink with Andi Simon, that has more than 125,000 monthly listeners, and is ranked among the top 20 Futurist podcasts and top 200 business podcasts. In addition, Global Advisory Experts named Simons’ firm the Corporate Anthropology Consultancy Firm of the Year in New York – 2020. She has been on Good Morning, America and Bloomberg, and is widely published in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Forbes, Business Week, Becker’s, and American Banker, among others. She has been a guest blogger for Forbes.com, Huffington Post, and Fierce Health.