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ASCM Insights

COVID-19 Continues Its Assault on Working Women

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There was a shocking headline in Fortune earlier this week: Women accounted for 100% of the 140,000 jobs shed by the U.S. economy in December. “Actually, it’s even worse than that,” author Maria Aspan writes. “Technically, women accounted for more than 111% of jobs lost last month.”

A net 140,000 U.S. jobs disappeared in December, according to the Labor Department. Furthermore, analysis by the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) found that women lost 156,000 jobs while men gained 16,000. In all, 5.4 million women have been affected since February — equal to 55% of all U.S. jobs lost.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics points to two central reasons why the pandemic and resulting recession are so brutal to women: First, COVID-19 hammered sectors that are largely served by female workers, such as hospitality and retail. Second, ongoing school and daycare closures are keeping moms home to provide childcare and virtual learning supervision.

In fact, 2.1 million mothers have had to vacate the labor force, with only 22% of female workers having jobs that allow them to telecommute. Again, women in service-sector jobs are experiencing the worst of it, as these roles don’t lend themselves to telecommuting, especially while caring for children at home.

And the ramifications are poised to widen gender gaps and damage women’s financial security for years to come. The Center for American Progress reports that 4.5 million childcare slots could be lost permanently, giving moms little choice but to stay home.

“The risk of mothers leaving the labor force and reducing work hours in order to assume caretaking responsibilities amounts to $64.5 billion per year in lost wages and economic activity,” the report states. “Without both immediate and long-term action … the United States cannot achieve continued economic growth nor protect and advance gender equity.”

The Bureau supports this conclusion, stating that COVID-19 may erode gender norms, resulting in an ongoing uneven distribution of the division of housework and childcare.

“The longer you’re out of work, the more likely it is to depress your wages when you do get a job again,” says Emily Martin, vice president for education and workplace justice at the NWLC. “Women are in the bullseye of this pandemic.”

Help ASCM advance women through supply chain

Diversity of thought, influence and input — particularly from women — is crucial to today’s global supply chains. ASCM will continue working to educate, engage, promote and retain women in supply chain in numerous ways, and I sincerely hope you will get involved.

First, the ASCM Foundation is excited to announce a new partnership with the U.S. State Department President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Dreams Initiative. This program will train a cohort of 300 young women in Zambia and South Africa to be the next generation of supply chain professionals.

Foundation Vice President Dan Schoenfeld writes in the latest SCM Now magazine: “As the ongoing demand for supply chain practitioners skyrockets, this is an amazing opportunity to close the supply chain skills gap. … Learners will participate in a 16-to-24-hour certificate experience to facilitate career opportunities in supply chain, with the strong potential for immediate employment.”

Second, ASCM has created an exclusive group for members to engage, share resources and ask questions with other supply chain professionals who support the advancement of women in supply chain. Visit the ASCM CONNECT Community, and join the disccussion.

In addition, a recent edition of The Rebound features Katty Kay, lead anchor for BBC World News America, discussing how businesses can address the changing nature of diversity in the workforce.

Perhaps most importantly, I urge you to reach out to young girls and women and show them what awaits them in a supply chain career. Tell them why you’re passionate about what you do. Share the myriad ways in which your job has a positive influence on people’s lives. We’re all in this together, and we can’t do it without empowered women.

About the Author

Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE CEO, ASCM

Abe Eshkenazi is chief executive officer at ASCM, the largest nonprofit association for supply chain and the global leader in supply chain organizational transformation and innovation. Prior to this, he was the managing director for the Operations Consulting Group of American Express Tax and Business Services. His leadership roles have included project management, business process redesign, and individual and organizational alignment. Eshkenazi may be contacted through editorial@ascm.org.

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