Author: Commission News

November 1, 2022

Media Contact: Darcy Totten
California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls; 916-261-6705 (cell)


California Women are Essential to Economic Recovery

(SACRAMENTO, CA) – The California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls (CCSWG) releases the California Blueprint for Women’s Pandemic Economic Recovery (Blueprint) today. The Blueprint is a comprehensive plan that adopts, for the first time, a gendered lens on the state economy, and offers critical policy solutions that center women as key drivers of industry and as essential workforce participants. The Blueprint sheds light on the systematic erosion of women’s well-being, human rights, and economic status that have been profoundly accelerated by COVID-19 and will undoubtedly continue unless halted by deliberate interventions needed now.

“The pandemic dramatically shifted the full burdens of caregiving and domestic work onto the shoulders of mothers working full time,” said First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. “I am grateful the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls has taken on the critical work of understanding how gender-specific investments- particularly in our caregiving infrastructure- are critical not just to the health of California women and their families, but to California’s economic growth and long-term prosperity.”

In partnership with the California Policy Lab (CPL), CCSWG examined pre-pandemic economic conditions for women, women’s labor-market outcomes during the height of the pandemic, financial indicators during the peak of the pandemic government response period, and overall safety net usage by women. CCSWG reviewed the outcomes and conducted an extensive review of current literature to generate a snapshot of women’s economic well-being and offer an estimate of the likely outcomes for the state economy moving forward. The Blueprint describes the collective trajectories of groups of women who entered the pandemic already in economic difficulty and explores opportunities to chart new paths based on impact data from federal and state support programs and interventions since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Then, it imagines a future-forward state economic model that presupposes the value of women’s labor in the workforce and at home while contending with a virus that appears to be here to stay.

“At the onset of the pandemic, we knew women were bearing the brunt of the impact both at work and in the home. As the crisis continued, the Commission raised concerns and advocated for an immediate response,” said CCSWG Executive Director Holly Martinez. “The Commission invested funds in women-specific research to examine the economic impact of COVID-19 on California’s women and girls which produced the California Blueprint for Women’s Pandemic Economic Recovery. The Blueprint centers the economic needs of women and girls as critical to the state’s economic recovery and takes a close look at points of pain and bright spots of hope for a more equitable economic recovery for women.”

The Blueprint confirms that California women went into the pandemic worse off due to existing systemic inequities in the workforce, with employment rates at 20% lower than men, a persistent pay gap of 78 cents nd the inequitable practice of occupationally segregating women of color, who hold nearly half of all low paying jobs.

“Rising inflation impacts women disproportionately, as does the persistent gender wage gap and limited representation in leadership positions,” said CCSWG Commissioner Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer Kahan (D-Orinda). “We believe that it is critical to face the future with a gender lens – prioritizing women not as an afterthought or a special interest but as half the population and half the workforce, deserving of half the state’s investment.”

At the height of the pandemic, women were disproportionately burdened with school closures, family caregiving and lack of childcare options. Female-dominated occupations such as retail, hospitality, and education had the largest share of job loss, which largely impacted women of color who experienced lower employment rates as compared to white women. Nearly 8% of women with disabilities were jobless during the acute phase of the pandemic and 1 in 4 non-citizens lost their job as compared to 1 in 6 naturalized citizens and 1 in 7 native-born U.S. citizens.

“Women entered the pandemic more economically disadvantaged compared to men due to existing systemic inequities, particularly impacting women of color,” said CCSWG Chair Lauren Babb. “Women of color were the first to lose jobs and last to regain them, causing long-term financial stress to their households. Many women are the primary breadwinners and backbone of their families. As California’s economy recovers, women of color have been slower to bounce back. To improve economic equity, solutions must include an intersectional approach that centers those most impacted and prioritizes policy that provides opportunity and relief for the most vulnerable Californians with an emphasis on women and girls in the state.”

The pandemic significantly increased the share of labor at home that fell on women, even those working full time. More than 60% of mothers of children under 12 taking on the majority or entirely of extra care work in 2020, compared with 22.4% of fathers. Professional caregivers were also significantly impacted by shutdowns, an impact that continues for an industry experiencing a slower rate of recovery and a severe workforce shortage. Women employed in the care industry are among the lowest paid workers at about $13.43 an hour, employing predominately women of color.

Overall, women reported experiencing disproportionate rates of psychological stress with 47% of women in California reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic. About 75% of women who specifically reported experiencing economic hardships, also reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic.

California’s pandemic response through government safety-net programs helped women meet life’s basic needs. Unemployment benefits helped low wage workers weather the crisis. 183,000 more women relied on food assistance during the early pandemic. Safety-net programs helped women pay down debt, see a rise in credit scores, and significantly reduced child poverty, highlighting a clear path forward to an equitable economy that has now been demonstrated to be feasible.

As safety-net supports are withdrawn, measures of economic struggle are returning to pre-pandemic levels. We cannot be satisfied with a return to pre-pandemic normalcy. The growing needs and challenges for women resulting from the current global pandemic demand an urgent response and deliberate ongoing policy interventions. The pandemic added an estimated 36 years to the time it will take for women to make the same amount as men, bringing the total to 135 years. In California, if all working women and working single mothers earned the same as comparable men, their poverty rate would be reduced by about 40%.

The Blueprint also considers the growing body of research that indicates women are disproportionately impacted by Long COVID. An estimated 14.9% of all adults living in California have experienced symptoms consistent with Long COVID. At the high end, that is roughly 5,960,000 people. Roughly 257,000 workers are out of the workforce due to Long COVID, amounting to an estimated $17.61 billion in annual lost earnings.

“Women face an elevated risk of Long COVID and significant impacts to their workforce participation, long- term economic health, and ability to build wealth over time,” said CCSWG Communications Director and Blueprint co-author Darcy Totten. “As California’s economy recovers,
Long COVID coupled with workplace bias, wage gaps, and the disproportionate impact of inflation and debt will hold back recovery for nearly half of the state’s workforce without significant intervention.”

As we build a post-pandemic future, gender is a substantive element of the health of the state’s overall workforce and capacity for economic growth and must be considered as an essential element in state resource stewardship. When you invest in women you invest in everyone – because California women are essential to California’s economic and global competitiveness.


About the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls
For more than 50 years, the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls has identified and worked to eliminate inequities in state laws, practices, and conditions that affect California’s women and girls. Established as a state agency with 17 appointed commissioners in
1965, the Commission regularly assesses gender equity in health, safety, employment, education, and equal representation in the military, and the media. The Commission provides leadership through research, policy and program development, education, outreach and collaboration, advocacy, and strategic partnerships. 

About the Blueprint
The Blueprint is a comprehensive plan based on the research CCSWG conducted in partnership with California Policy Lab (CPL) to shed light on points of pain and bright spots of hope amid COVID-19 pandemic for a more equitable economic recovery for women. It describes the collective trajectories of groups of women who entered the pandemic already in economic difficulty and explores opportunities to chart new paths based on impact data from federal and state support programs and interventions since the COVID-19 pandemic began. To review the full Blueprint, visit