SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Several women have left the workforce since the start of the pandemic. In September 2020, 868-thousand women and 163-thousand men left the workforce.

“There are 3 groups of women [the pandemic] has affected more than anyone and that’s working mothers, black women, and women incorporate or managerial positions,” Director of the Workforce Development Department Sally Payne said.

Part of the dip has to do with child care.

“Women disproportionality have had to make decisions about child care,” Payne said. “There’s plenty of men that of course make those decisions every day as well. With so many unknowns with school right now and that can be daycare, that can be elementary age, it really has affected working mothers with children under 10.”

Once daycares get notified of a potential exposure, they often have to shut down. This has been the case for Cris Swaters Milligan.

“Since the pandemic started, this will be our fifth quarantine,” Milligan said. “I know there are parents who have experienced more. I’m sure there are parents who have experienced less. Obviously, I would like to experience a quarantine less, but I know that the school is doing everything they can to keep our kids safe.”

Milligan and her husband both work full-time. Their employers are flexible when their daughter has to quarantine.

“My husband and I are both very fortunate and privileged to have employers who will work with us,” Milligan said. “When we do have a child that’s quarantined, we are able to do jobs from home. So we’re still able to keep our paycheck.”

The Workforce Development Department suggests employers continue to be flexible.

 “We’re going to need to make some investments into childcare, education, and up-scaling,” Payne said. “We’ve seen increases in wages which is incredible, remote work options, and flexible work options.”

Another option to help women get back into the workforce is called returnships.

“[Returnships] are basically internships for adults re-entering,” Payne said. “They just need a little bit of training to get them back into the workforce.”

Payne said all of the investments could have a $13-trillion positive impact on the GDP. But, Payne and Milligan also think the pressure needs to be taken off of women.

“We as women juggle so many things even if children aren’t in the mix,” Milligan said. “Having that ability to juggle those volunteering opportunities and other passions that we have outside of our 9 to 5 job is so important. If you have a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day be like, ‘hey, I’m leaving for an hour. I’ll tack on an extra hour at the end of the day or I’ll come in an hour early tomorrow,’ that gives employees the opportunity to have that flexibility and employers don’t have to offer more time off.”

Payne said she doesn’t expect Women’s participation in the workforce to get back to pre-pandemic numbers until 2024.