Women struggle to find a balance to re-enter the labor market

Kenya Mills sees the struggle women face through a Zoom screen as they take care of their families and look for the right job. As a social worker for the Clark County School District, she spent the school year watching mothers balance the need to provide – both in paychecks and in child care.

Dozens of women nationwide have yet to return to full-time work despite hiring signs apparently on every street, especially in Las Vegas’ active leisure and hospitality industry. But it’s not as easy as filling out an application form.

“I’ve spoken to parents who were just upset that they couldn’t go to work, because the kid had to be in class in front of the camera,” said Mills, who notes that her own experience of poverty l ‘helps build relationships with customers. “They couldn’t go to work because the hours the children needed to be in school were the same as the hours they needed to be at work, so the household suffered.”

As job fairs in the Las Vegas Valley recruit more workers, advocates want to address why women have lived significant job cuts at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Experts say reducing the dramatic impact on women in the labor market will require changes in the systems surrounding work, child care and time.

Layoffs due to a pandemic

Unemployment in Nevada has fallen dramatically since its peak in the spring of 2020, when closures pushed nearly 30% of workers out of the workforce. As of May 2021, 8.7% of Nevada women were unemployed, according to state data.

But a June 14 report that focused on Nevada’s economy in April highlighted how groups with historically high unemployment and certain demographics, including black women, Hispanic women, and black men, are still struggling.

“… a return to more normal economic activity”, according to the report.

Economists say it’s not as easy as flipping a switch – just because there are jobs available doesn’t mean all the rest of the workforce is ready for workers, said Jeff Waddoups, labor economist and president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas department. of Economy.

“There are a lot of moving parts that go into creating (a dual career hotbed),” Waddoups said. “With the disruption of the pandemic, these two functional parts ceased to function. You can’t just go back to work immediately when there are job offers. This is because you don’t have a daycare – there are fewer daycare centers than before or maybe it’s more expensive.

Work also affects the family

Some workers who may wish to return might still wait because of how a new work schedule might disrupt other members of their household.

“It might take a while to get us back to where we were before, just because of the difficulty for workers to decide they are going to work,” Waddoups said. “They will integrate this into their household routine. Now they have a new routine. To fit in at work, they have to disrupt their new routine and it just isn’t that easy.

This is something that the leaders of Dress for Success of Southern Nevada have seen in their clientele.

The non-profit organization, which offers workforce preparation programs, networking and work clothing, typically serves around 1,000 women through referrals. That fell by about half during the pandemic, said executive director Norma Intriago. She suspects this has changed the services of their referral agencies and the pandemic’s hurdles for households mostly headed by women of color and single mothers encountered in their careers over the past year and a half.

Child care continues to be a challenge, even after some schools have reverted to in-person learning. Summer camp offers are limited, children under 12 cannot yet be vaccinated, and the limited childcare options available are either full or overpriced.

Mills, the social worker, said this was a major concern for her clients.

“It’s still a catch-22,” Mills said. “It’s always:” I have to either sacrifice time with my child to take more hours, or I have to sacrifice my job to take care of my child. “”

The barriers don’t end there, Intriago said. Some women do not have adequate transportation or live in multigenerational households and may fear infecting an older family member.

“Right now they’re in survival mode,” Intriago said. “He’s trying to figure out how they can balance all of these things when the safety nets are gone. Perhaps the decision and their path forward and their return to the workforce would be different if those safety nets were restored. “

Modified offers could bring back workers

One solution that would encourage Dress for Success clients to come back is higher pay to support the family, Intriago said.

They are not alone. North Las Vegas resident Dawn Challenor said she had been looking for an office management job for about three months, but struggled to find one that paid off according to her years. of experience.

“(A job) has to be right when I need it,” Challenor said.

She turned to creating a craft fair with other women selling homemade products. It doesn’t pay off like a full-time job, she says, but gives her time to look for the right job.

Challenor had 12 other suppliers at the first show in February 2021, and the list now stands at 80. She said this is a testament to the resilience of women who have lost their jobs and found a new way to work.

“We are making our own way through this world,” she said.

Some industry executives say their workers may have used the time to re-evaluate their desires and career path. Mary Choi Kelly heads the MCK Leadership Talent Group, a human resources consulting firm in Las Vegas. She said some jobs in the hospitality industry may lose interest in former employees – or work priority, in general.

“I think there are a lot of different dynamics that come into play, including people in general, I think, have reassessed their perspective on what work means in their lives,” she said. . “Their decisions have changed a lot. It’s not just a matter of career or financial stability or whatever. I think the pandemic has really brought a different perspective on health, the overall quality of life. “

For companies, that means re-evaluating what they offer to employees, Kelly said. Necessity is the mother of invention, she said, and employers should highlight what makes it a better place to work – like flexible hours, benefits, social responsibility efforts and volunteering; and diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

Ultimately, labor economists warn that it takes patience for anyone who wants to work to find a job.

“I think it’s going to go back to something that looks like normal – and by normal I mean pre-pandemic,” said Waddoups, the UNLV economist. “It’s just going to take a while. We must be patient. You can’t just run an economy down and expect it to shrink with the snap of a finger. The system is too complex for that.

McKenna Ross is a member of the corps with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Contact her at [email protected] To pursue @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter.

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