BY CJ GIBSON
Sidney Sullivan, a political science major, gave a presentation alongside Dr. Wendy Rohleder-Sook about the disproportionate effects of the pandemic on working women.
A transfer student originally from El Dorado, Sullivan is a member of the Honors College and a fellow of the Center for Civil Leadership.
After seeing Sullivan’s passion for women’s rights, assistant Political Science professor Dr. Rohleder-Sook suggested they work together for this presentation for the American Democracy Project.
“I spend a lot of time in Dr. Rohleder-Sook’s office complaining about politics,” Sullivan said. “We have really meaningful discussions about current events and especially women’s rights. So when she had the idea to create a presentation about this topic she offered me an opportunity to help her present. I think she knew this was a topic I was excited and passionate about. “
After about a month of preparation, the presentation took place on March 17.
Sullivan and Rohleder-Sook worked together throughout the research process, meeting once a week to go over their discoveries.
“I did most of the surface level research and research on the impact of foreign countries. Dr. Rohleder-Sook did the deep diving,” Sullivan said. “She dug through data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and found the majority of our sources and articles. It was incredible to work with her.”
This project was a valuable learning experience for Sullivan, teaching her both about the topic and how to create this kind of presentation.
“I learned how best to do research and how to build a great outline to work from. I certainly avoid public speaking at all costs but this was a great opportunity to improve my skills in that area,” Sullivan said. “Additionally I learned so much about the different perspectives and types of experiences of mothers, low income women, women of color, and single mothers. It was unfortunate, but eye opening, to learn about how the pandemic affected these populations so disproportionally.”
Service and hospitality was one of the hardest hit industries in the shutdown. Women make up the majority of the workers in these frontline positions, especially in fields like nursing and elementary school teaching, where women hold more than 80% of jobs.
“The pandemic will have a number of lasting effects on our lives. This topic is incredibly important to discuss not only because this will seriously affect so many people’s lives but also because many of the effects can be prevented. There are steps that employers and legislators can take to lift the burden that many women felt during the pandemic and the additional labor they have always had to carry.”
One of the main reasons that they addressed in the presentation for this job-loss gender disparity was gender norms when it comes to childcare and housework. Women contribute significantly more unpaid household labor, averaging an extra 180 hours per year more than men.
Because of this disproportionate focus on unpaid household labor, women are more likely to take time off of work, impeding their career progress.
Sullivan provided a few examples of ways that she believes this situation can be improved:
“Many countries have already created subsidized or socialized childcare systems. In these countries, there are more women in the workforce,” she said. “Additionally, the limited number of sick days available for employees is more harmful to mothers since they are usually the parent to take time off if their children are ill. Employers making work hours more flexible and childcare becoming more available would be benefits to women and mothers.
“It’s incredibly important that more people understand the expectations women have placed upon them so that there can be more places where these burdens are lightened,” Sullivan said.