Katy Rouse presents at ROAR Women’s Symposium on how the pandemic affected working women

During the Alamance Chamber Women’s Symposium, the associate professor of economics discussed the decline in the women’s labor participation rate during the pandemic.

Katy Rouse, associate professor of economics in the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, shared how the pandemic has disproportionately affected women in a presentation during the 2022 ROAR Women’s Symposium, hosted by the Alamance Chamber and sponsored by Cone Health.

headshot of Katy Rouse
Katy Rouse, associate professor of economics

In “Women, the Workforce and COVID-19,” Rouse explained to the 300 attendees that while the women’s labor force participation rate has grown since the 1960s, the rate dropped sharply at the start of the pandemic.

Unlike previous recessions, in 2020 the labor force participation of women fell both overall and relative to men.

This recession hit different sectors of the U.S. economy than prior recessions, with job losses more pronounced in the education/health service and leisure/hospitality sectors where women hold the majority of positions, Rouse explained.

Women were also two times more likely to be responsible for homeschooling and three times more likely to take on the majority of the housework and caregiving.

“These trends have resulted in the COVID recession being labeled the so-called ‘She-Cession,’” Rouse said.

She offered two major ways public policies could improve the working lives of women: better paid leave policies, including parental leave, and more affordable and accessible childcare in the U.S.

“I am hopeful that policymakers will take seriously these issues and recognize they are the key not only to economic recovery from the pandemic but key to a more sustainable and equitable workplace for American women,” Rouse said.