COVID-19’s Toll on Women

Woman walking with a child, both wearing masks

There are things we know for certain about COVID-19: America’s healthcare system is being overworked and our economic future seems dire. One aspect of the pandemic that is also being brought to light is the profound effect and burden COVID-19 is placing and will continue to place on women.

Women are often excluded from the global discussions surrounding health, and the coronavirus pandemic is no exception. Worldwide, women hold 70% of all healthcare jobs, yet make up only 20% of the World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee on COVID-19 and 10% of the Trump administration’s Coronavirus Task Force (though when first announced the team was only made up of men). With women making up the majority of healthcare workers and thus leading from the front line of the battle against COVID-19, their exclusion from the global conversation on the pandemic is unacceptable.

COVID-19 has a major impact on women outside of the healthcare system as well. The World Health Organization reports that during times of humanitarian crises such as pandemics, gender-based violence increases. According to Time Magazine, victims of domestic violence have reported their partners using the coronavirus as a mean of manipulation and mandatory lockdowns as an opportunity for increased abuse. Some women who experience abuse and need medical attention have revealed they are too worried to leave their homes and go to hospitals over the fear of contracting COVID-19.

An op-ed published in the New York Times stresses the anxieties pregnant women face over the virus. As people have taken to panic-buying, pregnant women have had trouble purchasing necessities such as baby food, diapers, or even groceries. The CDC doesn’t have enough data to give a definitive statement on the potential dangers pregnant women and newborns face, so many are flying blind. Meanwhile, Vice News reported that COVID-19 is affecting women’s access to birth control since state and insurance regulations prevent people from stocking up on the pill the way one could with other medications.

COVID-19 is also guaranteed to pose long-term effects on women. The Atlantic published an article on the virus’s economic consequences disproportionately impacting women. As more school districts shut down, many men will continue to work while women will increasingly bear the responsibility of childcare due to both social norms and the pay gap—the latter of which dangerously infers that women’s work is less valuable than men’s. The Atlantic compares COVID-19’s impact to the economic toll that the Ebola crisis in West Africa brought, where everyone was affected but men’s incomes recovered significantly faster than women’s incomes.

The war being waged against COVID-19 is a multi-pronged one. As many have stressed, we must look out for each other now more than ever. Let’s work to ensure that women are not diminished in this time of need.

Take Action! Support the overlooked women in healthcare by clicking here to find a list of female health security experts and their contact information. If you are able to, donate to local women’s shelters, as many are in need of supplies. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, text or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.