Women have been hesitant to return to work. How affected is Kansas?

The COVID-19 pandemic, both in Kansas and nationally, has seen a disproportionate number of women leaving the workforce, although some are starting to return.

When COVID-19 hit, Sandy Soundara had to make a choice: Keep her child care or keep her job.

The choice is a familiar one for scores of individuals in Kansas and across the country, as the COVID-19 pandemic uprooted lives, careers and families over the course of the past 15 months.

But there is little doubt, at least nationally, that women are likely to be at a disadvantage in a post-COVID-19 economy. That is the opposite of the Great Recession, when men were disproportionately impacted.

For starters, most jobs lost during the pandemic were in sectors with a largely female workforce, such as hospitality, professional services and health care. Other fields with a high number of female employees were on the frontlines of the pandemic, meaning some nurses or grocery store workers likely left their posts because they didn’t feel safe.

Soundara, a single mother, didn’t need to be told that twice.

As COVID-19 cases persisted through the fall, her babysitter, a retired 69-year-old with diabetes, had to quit, telling Soundara she couldn’t leave the house and risk contracting the virus.

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