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Cuyahoga Falls mother looks back at the last year and shows how women in households are holding it all together

Women ended 2020 with 5.4 million less jobs
Women in the workforce
Posted at 3:03 PM, Mar 08, 2021

CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio — This pandemic has been a story of numbers. The death toll, the infection rate, the business closures, and the layoffs have all been tracked closely.

And of the people who have lost their jobs or left the workforce, women have been disproportionately impacted.

Julie Vandegrift is keenly aware of how much women have done during the last year in a pandemic.

Inside her Cuyahoga Falls house, there is an office and a classroom.

Vandegrift was able to transition her job with Kent State University from the office to her house last March.

On this day, she was home with just her daughter.

But sometimes, her husband and son are there too.

"We do a lot of earbuds and headphones," she said about trying to make sure everyone has the chance to work while the quartet are at home. "So a lot of schoolwork, lots of my own personal work. I'm usually in and out of meetings all day as well. So it's usually a very camera heavy day, at least three days a week."

The family is nearing the year mark into their lockdown life but the memory of last March still looms large.

"But that initial reaction was, oh, my gosh, what's going to happen in three months when we have to go back to campus and I don't have childcare available, then am I going to lose my job? Am I going to have to quit my job? Am I going to have to rely on my parents who may be retired by then or not," she said about the split-second decisions that were made. "I had to ask for more help and that was hard because I had to actually admit that I could not do it all."

Vandegrift's husband works in foodservice.

She knows she is lucky that she was able to keep her job and has support at home. But she knows not everyone was as lucky.

"Through the -- all of it, the moms have been responsible for childcare and educating. We can handle a lot more, but we need to be able to be offered help as well."

In the three months before the pandemic started last year, women in the workforce experienced a rare thing.

They held more jobs than men in the country's economy. That had only happened once before, a decade earlier from 2009-2010. When the pandemic was declared, women lost jobs and they haven't recovered.

"That should be an emergency. That should be a call to action," Vandegrift said. "That should be something that we're looking at and going, oh, my gosh, what happened? ... And you can't take care of your kids if you don't have the money coming in from a job. It's just it's too much. It's too much."

Numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics tell the yearlong saga. The slow march back to recovery for the country couldn't close the gap for women in the workplace. In the U.S., women ended 2020 with 5.4 million fewer jobs than when the year started. In March of 2020, women made up 55% of the jobless claims in Ohio.

In a year where so much has stopped, Vandegrift says she's learned to keep going.

"It's just I -- I think it's shown how much of a role we play in the home life that is not always accounted for," she said.

She hopes this past year will force change across the country.

"But, yeah, we never would have imagined this a year later. A year later, we're still sitting in the living room for school," she said.