Better Life Lab

Where Have All the Women Gone?

While men have regained nearly all the jobs they lost since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re still missing two million women.


Episode Notes

Recently there’s been a dramatic shift in the American workforce: The “Great Resignation.” “The Big Quit.” 

In one year, more than 47 millions of people left their jobs. The majority were women.

“It is horrible for our economy when millions of women exit the labor force,” says economist Michelle Holder, CEO of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

While men have regained nearly all the jobs they lost since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re still missing two million women.

So where have all the women gone?

We’ll hear Holder’s insights, as well as the stories of two working women whose thriving careers were turned upside down by the rigidity — and sexism — built into the American workplace.


Kari McCracken, a mother from Lexington, Kentucky. She had a job she loved, and managed close to a hundred employees. Then the pandemic hit.
Kiarica Shields single mother of four in Georgia, lost her job as a hospice nurse in the early days of the pandemic, then with schools and child care closed, has struggled to find the care she needs in order to find work.
Michelle Holder, economist, CEO Center for Equitable Growth who has been named one of 19 Black economists to watch by Fortune. Author of two books, she recently published an important paper on the impact of COVID-19 on job losses among Black women in America.

Resources for Show notes

Handling work-family conflicts: future agenda, International Journal of Manpower, 2017

Work-Family conflict and mental health among female employees, Frontiers in Psychology, 2018

Measuring work-life conflict among low-wage workers, Nichols & Swanberg, 2018

The jingle jangle of work-nonwork balance: a comprehensive and meta-analytic review of its meaning and measurement, Casper et al, 2018

Lower-wage workers and flexible work arrangements, Danziger & Waters Boots, 2008

When work and families are allies: a theory of work-family enrichment, Greenhaus & Powell, 2006

Work-family enrichment and satisfaction: the mediating role of self-efficacy and work-life balance, Chan et al, 2015

The Early Impact of COVID-19 on Job Losses Among Black Women in the U.S.” Holder 2021


About the Show

Economists say the way we work has become so stressful it’s now the fifth leading cause of death. Our mission is to find a better way. Explore the art and science of living a full and healthy life with behavioral and social science researchers who can help us better understand what drives our human experiences, and how to change. Better Life Lab is a co-production from New America and Slate. All episodes