The Utah Women and Leadership Project recently released a study entitled, “The Impact of COVID-19 on Utah Women and Work: Changes, Burnout, & Hope,” which looked at women in the workforce throughout the state, from various industries, areas, and age groups, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was written by co-researchers Dr. Susan R. Madsen, director of the Utah Women and Leadership Project, Dr. Jared Hansen, and Dr. Chris Hartwell.
The driving force behind the research and policy brief was the widespread impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the lives of everyone, but women have seen that impact in some different ways than men.
“It’s not just because it’s interesting, but it is because women’s lives and families in Utah are being significantly impacted by the pandemic,” Madsen said. “The national research tells us that women have lost more jobs and so forth, but there is a real fear that all of this gain that we have been painfully making in terms of gender for the last decade may take years to get back to where we were at.”
Madsen continued, saying that women’s lives are complex and have been impacted in so many different ways.
While the study did not collect any data on men in Utah, the brief had a large sample of women from around the state. This group found that about 16% of the women had some withdrawal from the workplace. Some left completely and may not have gone back to work, but those reasons included caring for others such as children, being furloughed, and some left due to COVID-19 concerns.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, children were home all of the time and this became a balance for many parents. Women would stay home to take care of these children, and this occurred with single and double-parent households.
Another aspect Madsen brought up was the burnout data collected in the research. The data was done on a scale of seven and every grouping, by industry, had a burnout score of above 5.
“Across different industries and even across the state, that burnout is significant,” Madsen said. “The burnout is even higher than the hope. People generally are having hope but it is a somewhat agree. The hope is neutral to some, but the burnout is there.”
Madsen added that in some other states these numbers may be worse, citing that the state of Utah was able to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic quicker than other states.
While there may have been some strong money concerns in women who worked in the food service industry, for the other industries there was mostly a below-neutral money concern. This is showing that things have lightened up a bit and unemployment has rebounded in the state of Utah.
“I look at it and say, we’re doing better in Utah than probably many areas in the world,” Madsen said.
One of the other pieces of the research that Madsen touched on was the mental health aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic, talking about the difference between women who worked from home and those who worked on-site.
When women worked from home all of the time, it led to some isolation, according to Madsen, but those who worked on-site had less exhaustion as well as less mental health decline.
The report also found that over 9% of the women said they were anxious about domestic violence and an increase of violence in the home since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Madsen used these stats, as well as the state’s domestic violence numbers to cite the need to do something about domestic violence with regards to policy at the state level.
Overall, Madsen finished by saying that there were some interesting findings but each woman is an individual person with a life, aspirations, and their own experiences. People need to help each other, lift each other up and have a better understanding of women in the workplace.