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The Hidden Bias of the Pandemic Recession

We have heard plenty about the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year. We know that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) took a historic hit and that many businesses around the country have been forced to close. We know that millions of Americans are out of work and that millions of others – and the small businesses they work for – were saved largely through government programs like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Others have been kept afloat by multiple rounds of government COVID-relief checks and moratoriums on everything from student loans to mortgage payments.

The K-Shaped Recovery and Its Impact on Minorities

But these high-level, generalized numbers often hide the fact that the COVID-19 economy has been much harder on some than on others. For example, there has been a great deal of discussion on the so-called K-shaped recovery in the U.S., in which many blue-collar and hospitality-industry sectors of the economy continue to falter, while tech, web-based and white-collar areas see a healthy recovery.

Additional research shows that economic sector and job function aren’t the only factors in determining an individual’s pandemic recovery. An article for the Guardian titled “The shecession; why economic recovery is affecting women more than men” explores the gender component of disparate experiences with individual economic recovery.

“Like many women, the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has hit Frederick hard. For the first time in history, the US is in a ‘shecession’ – an economic downturn where job and income losses are affecting women more than men,” the article states. This is in stark contrast to the Great Recession of 2008, in which men lost twice as many jobs as women. This time around, the Guardian reports, from February 2020 to May 2020 – the first few months of the pandemic – 11.5 million women lost their jobs, compared to nine million men. “By the end of April, women’s job losses had erased a decade of employment gains.

Black and Latina Women Disproportionately Impacted

The Guardian article and other research also highlight the racial element in the economic impact of COVID-19. People of color, especially women, and Black and Latina women in particular, are disproportionately feeling the impacts of policies that have shut down businesses in the hospitality, leisure and education industries, in which these groups are unequally represented.

For many, the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impacts have been an inconvenience at worst, and at best, a chance for greater flexibility vis-à-vis remote work requirements. But precautions implemented to slow the spread of the virus have left millions of others out of work and struggling to make ends meet.

Are Your Employees Part of the K-Shaped Recovery?

The disproportionate gender and racial disparity in these numbers is often overlooked, creating the risk that historically marginalized groups will be further marginalized and lose the broader employment and economic gains they’ve fought long and hard to achieve.

How is your workforce impacted? What could you do to address these disparities in ways that can make a difference to your employees, your customers and the communities you serve?

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