Women, on the Front Lines of Covid-19, Are at High Economic Risk

Larrilou Carumba last week learned that her hours cleaning rooms at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis had been cut for two weeks in a row. Now with the hotel chain furloughing workers and closing hotels, the single mom doesn't know where her next paycheck will come from.

“I'm really very worried about how I'm going to pay my bills and put food on the table for my kids,” she said.

The 47-year-old had been helping fight the spread of the virus, disinfecting hotel rooms so guests didn’t get each other sick. But with travel restricted and fewer people booking hotel stays, she’s out of a job indefinitely. And while Marriott International Inc. has said it will maintain health benefits for employees, Carumba said it’s not clear if she will get to keep hers.

Up and down the class spectrum, women are getting hit particularly hard from the economic fallout of Covid-19. The industries almost entirely shut down by the virus are disproportionately staffed by women. They hold 53% of restaurant and hotel and accommodation jobs, sectors already seeing layoffs and reduced hours because of social distancing directives. They’re the vast majority of teachers and daycare workers many of whom have been sent home or face impending closures. And they’re the working moms balancing workdays with virtual teaching and increased child-care duties.

Women also hold many of the jobs considered vital during this national emergency, meaning they’re being asked to stay on the front lines longer, risking their health and safety.

Because of the gender pay gap, women in the U.S. are less prepared to weather a financial blow than men. Their median weekly earnings for full time workers are 18.9% less than men’s, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. They’re also less likely to have savings and money put away for retirement.

Maria Sanchez, who works in food preparation for LSG Sky Chefs at the Miami International Airport, was told her hours will be cut in the coming weeks. “I understand this is a national emergency, but if people don’t come to work, how are they going to pay their bills?” she said.