Rep. Nancy Mace Says Women's Workforce Exodus During COVID 'Dialed Back' Decades of Progress

Watch the full interview on ASP.

As part of A Starting Point's (ASP) Explore series, U.S. Representatives Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) and Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) discussed the impact of the gender pay gap and the effect the coronavirus pandemic has had on women in the workforce.

"The gender pay gap is exactly what it sounds like: It's the difference in pay that men get versus women or LGBTQ+ counterparts," Jacobs said.

Regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation, Mace said, "the same person working the same job with the same education and skill set should be paid the same."

Meanwhile, the pandemic has exacerbated the pay disparity between men and women. "During COVID, we've seen over a million women leave the workforce," Mace said. "Decades of progress giving women the opportunity to create careers, and we've dialed it back, we've gone backward."

Jacobs echoed this concern and described the workforce shift as a "she session," as many women have left their jobs because of coronavirus-related layoffs or to care for their families.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women lost more jobs than men in 2020.

"If we don't do something to address this problem, we will be back to 1980s levels of female labor force participation," Jacobs said.

Jacobs also hopes the pandemic's appreciation of "essential workers" will start a cultural shift in the way society values care work. She wants employers to honor the unpaid or underpaid care work that women do at home, which has historically been overlooked and undervalued.

"We have seen how important teachers, home care providers and child care providers have been during this time," she said. "I am hopeful that will give us the push we need to make sure that those are good-paying jobs."

According to ASP, women are more likely to work part time because of unpaid obligations such as caregiving. These responsibilities lead to lower hourly wages, fewer benefits than those that full-time workers enjoy and less work experience than men have.

Jacobs calls the choice women make to take lower-paying jobs in certain industries "occupational segregation."

"As a working mom, I've had to trade higher pay for more flexibility," Mace said. She also noted that discrimination should be adjudicated based on existing legislation and that companies should continue to make an effort to address implicit biases and unfair labor practices in a public way.

The pay gap and workplace discrimination not only lead to lower pay, less job mobility and tougher work standards for women, Mace noted. They also greatly affect childhood poverty.

"For every dollar a woman isn't getting, that is more families living in poverty," Jacobs said. "The majority of single parents are single women, and they are working in underpaid industries. That is directly impacting levels of childhood poverty and how society is able to treat everyone equally."

Nancy Mace
GOP congressional candidate Nancy Mace speaks at an event with Senator Lindsey Graham during his campaign bus tour on October 31, 2020, in Charleston, South Carolina. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images