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Women are feeling the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic more

New numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor shows 2.5 million women left the workforce last year.
Credit: Aitina Cooke

BUFFALO, N.Y. — For Leah Daniel, family is everything. 

"I have two beautiful little daughters and a husband who is a frontline worker, who is a nurse here in Buffalo," she told 2 On Your Side's Karys Belger in an interview. 

Like countless others, the pandemic drastically changed the way her family operated. 

"It's been hard, making sure that my 11-year-old is on time for online schooling. Making sure that when the internet goes out I’m there."

This is in addition to caring for her younger daughter who is two-years-old. She's had to take over the majority of childcare for her children while her husband works. After a while, she began to feel the strain on her work life. 

"Our job at the time basically did not make any room for those of us who had children to go get our children from school or think about a second game plan for when we were going to have our children at home," she explained. 

Leah began looking for a new job and in the meantime, her family had to deal with the strain of only having one income. 

Daniel says it was easier for her to leave her job because all of her family's benefits are through her husband's job. Her story is not an unfamiliar one. 

"It’s unfortunate but it’s real that a lot of the times, the childcare responsibilities falls on the woman," Demone Smith told 2 On Your Side. 

Smith is the head of the Workforce Training Center in Buffalo. He says since things began shutting down last March, he’s seen a drastic change.

"Typically it was a 55-45 balance of women vs men that would use the services at the center. When COVID happened, we saw that switch," he explained. 

"A lot of women had childcare responsibilities and so they couldn’t actually go out into the workforce and they didn’t take jobs because schools weren’t open."

Smith also says childcare isn't the only factor. The type of industry also matters. 

"Hospitality took a big hit, they lost probably around 60 percent of the people that was working."

Smith says most of the workers who were furloughed or laid off were women. The changes have been noticed nationwide. 

According to the U.S. Labor Department, 1.8 million men left the workforce in 2020. For women, the number was 2.5 million. 

Professor Joanne Song McGluaghlin, a labor economist and professor at the University at Buffalo, agrees that women's jobs in the hospitality industry made up a good chunk of the job losses. 

She also says the numbers reported by the Labor Department only tell part of the story. 

"One lesson from this pandemic that we might, that we have to learn, is the importance of telework."

Telework became the norm for many, and according to Professor McGlauglin, provided a safety net for many women in the workforce. Based on her research, the impact would have been much worse and in the future, it’s something companies will have to consider when recruiting employees.

"A lot of women were able to continue their job with the additional take on the responsibility of childcare. They were able to do that because of telework."

Telework also made all the difference Leah who now has a new job. She says the biggest perk is the flexibility to take care of her family.