Leah Bloom of Somerville, Massachusetts, is one of the many moms forced to quit her full-time job to stay home with her 8-year-old son during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been really hard for me, career-wise," she said. "The only thing to do was leave my business on hold.”
Bloom had her own communications consulting business, but when schools closed, she had no choice, she said. Her husband also works full-time.
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“Every morning I’d wake up and say, what are we going to do today?” she said.
Women's labor force participation rates dropped to levels that haven’t been seen since the mid-1980s, according to Beth Humberd, a professor of Management at UMass Lowell’s Manning School of Business and an expert on women in the workforce.
The latest statistics say we have 1.5 million more mothers unemployed now then we did a year ago.
“The ability women had to work prior to the pandemic was really tenuously dependent on all of these super-structures...children being able to be cared for at day care or after-care programs, summer camps, schools,” Humberd said.
For Bloom, her new role this year was teacher, glued to her son’s side for hours a day.
She said she felt like she had to give up a big piece of herself and it wasn’t good for her.
It will be a while before women bounce back in the workforce, Humberd said, and employers' flexibility will be key moving ahead: “One of my hopes it that we come out of this with a better understanding in general that workers need support from their organizations from communities in being able to manage work and family.”
Bloom said her son has been in a private school since January. That’s allowed her to slowly get back at it.
“I have two clients right now. I’ve been able to pick back up and I’m slowly building out,” she said.
Humberd also wants women to know they are not alone. She encouraged women to try to keep a foot in the door and look for organizations that are supportive.
“We’re going to need government, organizations, education systems, health care to all kind of come together to see how we can support re-entering a lot of these women into the workforce,” Humberd said. “Hopefully, we’ll look back in a year and see some of those unfortunate statistics improving.”