Women’s workforce participation is down. Mental health concerns are up. The birth rate in the United States fell to its lowest level in decades. Reported instances of domestic violence in many jurisdictions increased, as those most at risk were left isolated and without resources.
With more than 60 percent of Americans over 12 at least partially vaccinated, the country is racing toward a return to “normal.” But what does that look like for the women and nonbinary people on the ground, who throughout the pandemic bore the brunt of systemic and structural inequities? These difficulties — from health care access to unemployment — consistently impacted women of color at higher rates throughout the pandemic.
In this package, The Lily looks at what we can expect as Americans cautiously emerge from this uncertain time: What will it take to bring workforce participation to pre-pandemic levels? What can corporations be doing to help working parents? Is there anything we can do about burnout?
We found moments of joy and learning in an unexpected year, too: Couples who used the time to upend the way they communicate. The special friendships that somehow formed despite social distancing and stay-at-home orders. And the self-discovery that can spring up when you have time alone with yourself.
These stories document the ways the pandemic fundamentally changed a generation — and what comes next.
Women are slowly regaining the jobs they lost. But many of their career paths may change for good.
At the start of the pandemic, women lost jobs at a much higher pace than men, with 11.3 million jobs held by women disappearing within weeks of nationwide shutdowns. The May jobs report brought some good news: The economy added 559,000 jobs, more than half of which went to women. But the recovery is inconsistent, said one expert, because the jobs being created versus the ones that have gone away simply don’t match up. — Julianne McShane and Anne Branigin
Hitting reset: 5 ways the pandemic could benefit working moms in the long term
As some companies start bringing workers back to the office, experts say it’s possible to incorporate inclusivity focused work-from-home revelations into corporate culture. And in order to make sure these options help women rather than create new professional hurdles, they say, we need to be intentional about it. — Alison Goldman
Why burnout won’t go away, even as life returns to ‘normal’
The triage stage of the pandemic is lessening for some in the United States. Yet external progress markers, like vaccination rates, can disguise — or even induce — a flurry of conflicting emotional, physical or cognitive states. Like getting sick right after turning in your last final, for some women who bore the brunt of domestic burdens while juggling work pressures for over a year, the breaking point may come with the breathing room. — Soo Youn
America expected a pandemic baby boom. It got an egg-freezing one instead.
More than a year ago, when it became clear that initial stay-at-home orders would last a while, speculation began about a looming covid-19 baby boom. It certainly made sense at the time: a bunch of couples stuck at home, little to do. Instead, many procreation plans were put on literal ice. — Genevieve Glass
What happens when domestic duties shift? These couples found out.
For many couples, the pandemic triggered a seismic shift in the home. In upending old routines, some couples were forced to reexamine what was — and what wasn’t — working in their relationships. These partners say they discovered new ways of thinking about “balance,” developing a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other. — Anne Branigin
He threatened her with a knife. Then the pandemic trapped them inside together.
With victims trapped inside with abusive partners, isolated from friends and family, many police departments reported a spike in domestic violence calls during the pandemic. Now that infection rates have slowed in America, victims of domestic violence are trying to figure out what life looks like after the pandemic. — Caroline Kitchener
The strange and lonely transformation of first-time mothers in the pandemic
New motherhood is meant to be a communal journey, in which a mother is ushered into her role by family and friends who support her, guide her and witness her. But for first-time moms who were already pregnant when the pandemic was first declared, the passage into parenthood was very different from what they’d once anticipated. — Caitlin Gibson
The pandemic empowered me to realize I’m nonbinary
For comic artist Christine Suggs, lockdown meant altering their wardrobe to match their new work-from-home lifestyle. But they started questioning more than just clothes because of the pandemic. — Christine Suggs
How has the pandemic changed female friendship for good?
The coronavirus pandemic tested a lot of friendships, but it also strengthened certain friendships, experts say — and allowed a few new ones to form. Extracted from our daily routines, grappling with extraordinary isolation and grief, many of us have bonded with new people, or been reintroduced to those who know us best. — Caroline Kitchener
The pandemic has changed me. But how will we collectively heal?
As we continue to rush past horrific milestones and death counts, comic artist Katie Wheeler can almost convince herself that she’s become numb to bad news. But her lack of appetite and sleep tell a different story. Every day, our bodies and minds are being affected by this persistent and traumatic experience. — Katie Wheeler