The COVID-19 pandemic is hitting women harder than men in many respects, according to a report created by the Vermont Commission on Women.
For the month of April, unemployment claims in Vermont were 40% men and 46% women, said Cary Brown, executive director of the Vermont Commission on Women. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that many women work in the sectors hit hardest by the pandemic. In Vermont, according to the report, 81% of tipped wage jobs are held by women, and many of these jobs went away or were suspended when governments ordered restaurants and the like closed in order to slow the spread of the virus.
The report shows that 91% of nurses in the state are women, 81% of other health care jobs are held by women, and that 82% of personal care workers, including child care providers, are female.
According to the report, 48% of Vermont’s COVID-19 infections have been in men, while 52% have been in women. Of those who’ve died, 31 have been men, while 25 have been women. The report was last updated Wednesday.
She said the disparity between the rate of infection and number of deaths isn’t completely understood. Brown said not everyone is being tested on a consistent basis, and one reason for the difference might be that health care workers, early on in the pandemic, were being tested more often.
The report, she said, is an ongoing project and the plan is to keep it updated regularly. Brown said it’s meant to be used as a tool for legislators and policy makers when they look at how to spend COVID-19 relief funds or make system changes.
More data is needed and will be sought, she said.
“We don’t have data by race and gender together, so I can’t tell you how many cases of COVID are Black women for instance, or how many Black women have died, so it’s great we’re disaggregating by gender on these cases and great we’re disaggregating by race, but we really need to be able to cross that over as well,” she said.
The Vermont Commission on Women plans to release a set of recommendations based on the data, said Brown. Among them will likely be a recommendation to consider gender when thinking about equity. Brown said it’s good that more people at the State House are thinking about equity these days, but often gender equity takes a backseat.
The pandemic has exposed many chronic problems with the economy and society, she said, and if these underlying issues aren’t addressed then recovering from COVID-19 may be difficult.
“Child care is a great example,” she said. “Our economy is completely dependent on child care and having so many child care places and schools closed has helped people understand that in a tangible way that they may not have before. When those places closed, the slack was taken up by women, by mothers. They’re doing a lot more of the at-home labor and the family management and the care-giving responsibilities, which already were disproportionately on the shoulders of women, and this has made that even more so.”
The report notes that 47.1% of Vermont households headed by single women with minor children live in poverty.
House Rep. Marybeth Redmond, D-Essex, said 47% figure sticks in her mind. Redmond is one of the Vermont Commission on Women commissioners and is a member of the Vermont Women’s Legislative Caucus.
“That is just astounding to me that half of the women with minor children are living in poverty,” Redmond said, adding that the number seems to be growing despite policies put in place to lower it.
Redmond said among the House recommendations on how to spend federal COVID-19 relief funds were that $5 million go to women and minority-owned businesses impacted by the virus, that $5 million be put into the creative economy where women are strongly represented, and funds go towards hazard pay for essential workers.
“We’ll see how the Senate treats it all,” she said.
Visit bit.ly/0625Women for the report on the Vermont Commission on Women website.