Helena Connell, '22

The Crisis of Caregiving: How COVID-19 Disproportionately Impacts Women

My project, which I titled the Crisis of Caregiving, focused on the double burden working women have been facing during this pandemic, primarily the pressure to excel in caregiving work, both professionally and domestically. While this pressure to some extent pre-dated the pandemic, I was struck by the statistic that 77 percent of women comprised the essential care workforce in 2020. And with the media spending so much time and rightfully so on thanking healthcare workers, I wondered how these women juggled this kind of work, often which required them to continue to work outside the home, with their roles as mothers and wives, especially given the closure of schools and reconfiguration of home and work life generally.

From the interviews I conducted, I think this pandemic has really altered the debate regarding women having it all and strengthened the association between caregiving and women in ways that may work to affirm more traditional gender roles. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a good thing or a bad thing but the fact that this paradox exists--the paradox of women loving their jobs and feeling so fulfilled with what they do, yet feeling stressed without the help of childcare, means that even though many women are career driven they have been feeling pressured to perform caretaking responsibilities and feeling more guilty about not doing that well. I think the pandemic has made traditional stereotypes about caretaking more visible since children are now quarantined in the home. The media today and even its celebratory gestures towards healthcare workers are serving to reinforce the idea that caregiving is an essential role performed uniquely by women and that women should be present for their children and are also essential in holding the family together in times of disruption.

To this day, now over a year into the pandemic, although many women are frustrated by this heightened association with caregiving, many are also questioning past choices and considering prioritizing family over career more than they have in the past.