The Impact of COVID on Women

The Impact of COVID-19 on Women: The American Solidarity Party Responds
By Nathan Warf

Nathan Warf is a proud member of the American Solidarity Party. He serves as an Assistant Professor of Law & Politics at Freed–Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee.

COVID-19 has impacted everyone, and researchers will spend a long time studying the different effects by age, sex, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Here, I wish to examine the consequences for women specifically and how the American Solidarity Party platform speaks to those issues.

As Talha Burki explains in The Lancet, COVID-19 might not discriminate by sex in who it infects, but studies confirm disparate impacts on men and women. While men are at a disadvantage when it comes to serious health consequences (and even death) due to a variety of biological and social factors, women face other, sometimes subtler, difficulties that are worth exploring.

For one, women are overrepresented in many of the occupations deemed essential during the shutdown. They hold a majority of the jobs in social work, health care, and critical retail (e.g., grocery stores, fast food). Their service in this capacity means greater risk of exposure to the coronavirus. To make matters worse, women are more likely to be affected by shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), and they often must deal with PPE not designed with their needs in mind. Unisex or one-size-fits-all PPE tends to cater to the average male, which can mean uncomfortable and less effective gear for many women. While women are more likely to hold essential jobs, ironically they are also more likely to suffer job losses than men as a result of the pandemic. This is due, in part, to the fact that more women held social-sector jobs—retail, tourism, hospitality—that were adversely impacted by mitigation efforts. The nature of such jobs requires in-person interactions; working from home simply isn’t possible.

After the initial shutdown, people throughout the country began raising questions about reopening, particularly with regard to schools. Discussion focused not only on how to reopen schools, but whether they should reopen at all. This issue disproportionately affects women, and not just because they comprise roughly seventy-five percent of all K–12 teachers. The White House has addressed many of the advantages of reopening for students. Remote learning is not possible for many students who lack reliable access to broadband internet. In-person learning is likely more effective for most students. Moreover, schools play a vital role in addressing food insecurity and identifying child abuse. Beyond the benefits for students, the White House also focuses on the economic impact of reopening schools. Even before the pandemic, women were far more likely than men to leave the workforce to take on unpaid care responsibilities for children, the elderly, and sick family members. Melinda Gates explains that “a two-hour increase in women’s unpaid care work is correlated with a ten-percentage-point decrease in women’s labor-force participation.” The pandemic has also exacerbated existing imbalances in unpaid work within the home. As schools have closed, women have disproportionately borne the effects.

What does the American Solidarity Party have to contribute to this discussion?

The American Solidarity Party platform states that the party “is founded on an unwavering commitment to defend life and to promote policies that safeguard the intrinsic dignity of the human person.” Part of safeguarding human dignity is recognizing that men and women often have differing needs and make different contributions to society. This is arguably more important during the pandemic than at any other time.

The party’s platform addresses many of the issues raised above. First of all, the ASP seeks to “guarantee universal healthcare.” The pandemic has demonstrated the frailty of our current system of employer-based health coverage. People, especially women, are losing their jobs, and therefore their insurance, during a time when access to healthcare is so desperately needed. Further, we believe healthcare should include full coverage of pregnancy, childbirth, and neonatal care. Women obviously play a unique role in childbearing, yet poor access to healthcare leads to adverse health outcomes for women and children.

Furthermore, the party acknowledges the invaluable service provided by individuals who forego paid employment in order to care for children, the elderly, and disabled family members. We seek to make such care easier by offering tax credits, subsidizing child care, providing access to affordable healthcare, and promoting workplace accommodations that support families, such as job sharing. Accommodations would include things like expanding “paid parental leave, flexible scheduling, and affordable child care.” Every other country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) offers paid leave for mothers, and the vast majority offer paid leave for fathers. Numerous studies confirm that generous paid parental leave programs provide health benefits for mothers and children in both the short and long-term. Paid time off and flexible scheduling allow for ongoing support of children and other family members in need.

Not only do such policies promote healthy families, they also make it much easier for women to remain in the workforce. Many live in “child-care deserts,” or areas where the demand for care exceeds capacity, a fact only intensified by the pandemic. Care options that are available tend to be expensive. The current child-care system makes it difficult to balance the desire to form stable families with the opportunity to enjoy the dignity of work. The ASP’s platform makes plain the party’s commitment to strong families and the support of women.

Finally, the ASP is aware that “[e]ducation is vital to the formation of the human person and the good of society.” We promote an educational system where parents have the ability to choose what is best for their children, whether that be education in the home, in a public school, or in a private school. Education demands greater investment, both to support “economically disadvantaged students” and to make “teaching a well-paying occupation.” In the midst of the pandemic, the need for this commitment is undeniable. We are making extraordinary demands of teachers, at first by forcing abrupt shifts to online or hybrid teaching and now by asking many to return to school despite poorly-understood risks to their personal health.

The ASP is attractive to many, including myself, because of its adherence to the consistent life ethic. We promote human dignity—for men and women—all the way from conception until natural death. This is not mere lip-service but is deeply embedded in the policies we pursue. The pandemic is reminding us of our need for one another, and the American Solidarity Party has a distinctive vision for the path forward.

  1.  For an illuminating examination of the challenges women face in a world largely designed by and for men, see Caroline Criado Perez, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. (New York: Abrams, 2019).
  2. See, e.g., “Policy Brief: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women,” The United Nations. 9 April 2020. Accessed 22 August 2020. https://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/ publications/2020/policy-brief-the-impact-of-covid-19-on-women-en.pdf?la=en&vs=1406
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