The Barriers Women Are Overcoming To Return To The Workforce

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Nearly 2 million women vanished from the workforce in 2020, but new data suggests they’re finally beginning to return. In March 2023, more than 77.8 million women were active in the US workforce, with this number reaching above the pre-pandemic levels of 77.6 million in February 2020. The percentage of women in the workforce is also quickly closing in on pre-pandemic levels, as it currently sits at 57.2% as of March 2023 compared to 57.9% back in 2020. 

A number of driving factors are pushing women to reenter the workforce. With the effects of the pandemic lessening, more reliable schooling options have opened up, allowing for more consistent and easier education. Many businesses have also gotten back on their feet, allowing for more companies to open more jobs. A number of select industries also heavily favor employing women. Kindergarten and preschool teachers, speech language pathologists, and licensed vocational nurses are all fields with over 90% of workers being women.

While the workforce as a whole is becoming more inviting for those entering or reentering the workforce, women still face a number of difficult challenges to overcome when trying to return to work. Older women in the workplace are more likely to be fired or let go from their employers. Older women also are rejected from potential employment than men of the same age, have less than half the callback rate of younger women, and face bias based on their age at least 5 years earlier than men. Women are also 5 to even 8 times more likely to have their careers impacted by caregiving than men.

Over 30% of women say they need to be at home in order to care for children or other loved ones and 12% say that the cost of caregiving has blocked them from seeking work. The cost of childcare in 28 of the 50 states is above the cost of college tuition, with childcare in many states around the country costing 30% to even 50% of the average salary. In addition to the sheer cost of childcare, finding a babysitter or daycare is becoming increasingly expensive and inconsistent, especially in more rural areas. There are 74,000 fewer childcare workers in 2023 than there were in 2020, meaning that finding a reliable option to take care of a child may not even be a possibility. 

Women also very commonly feel a lack of confidence when returning to work, from both pressure to take care of family as well as pressure to maintain look and beauty standards that are so prevalent in workspaces. Nearly half of women feel that taking time away from work to care for loved ones has damaged their career and over 40% say that they earn less than before a break. In addition to damages to a career from breaks, women face pressure from all sides to wear makeup and keep up with beauty standards.


Learn more about how women are overcoming these challenges and are reinvesting in themselves to return to the workforce here.

Why women are finally returning to the office
Source: Sieber Plastic Surgery